Nashville police are reclassifying hundreds of sexual assault claims after an investigation found deliberate distortions of statistics, of which one victim said, "I felt like I was raped a second time. They stripped me of any right that I had."
Essentially, police officers were claiming rapes had gone down — from 390 in 2004 to 290 in 2009 — when in reality they had simply been intimidating victims into not reporting, or marking cases as "matter of record," which doesn't count in the final violent crime statistics. Most depressing of all is the fact that Nashville is not at all alone — and those are just the police departments that have been called on it.
Take Baltimore, subject of a Sun investigation in June, just before Nashville's News 5 investigation. That city's two-third drop in rapes left local activists deeply skeptical — with a reason. "Of 194 reports of rape or attempted rape received by Baltimore detectives last year, about 32 percent - or 62 in all - were determined to be unfounded, according to a March audit provided by the department." Unfounded can mean that the accuser recanted her or his story, but it wasn't really that simple. The Sun looked at detectives' notes and said they appeared to be "pressuring victims by explaining the consequences of lying, promising to seek camera footage or cell phone records, and focusing on inconsistencies." Examples are profoundly upsetting:
In one instance, [a detective] wrote that a 15-year-old girl vomited from anxiety as he threatened to leave and retrieve crime-scene video to discern whether she was lying about having been raped. When he came back, she recanted, but refused to sign a statement. "She crossed her arm and held her lips together in a manner suggesting that she had nothing additional to say," the report reads. "This investigation is closed as unfounded."
In Baltimore, the mayor ordered an immediate inquiry. Similar complaints were raised in a New Orleans Times-Picayune investigation last year, where rapes were reclassified as "noncriminal complaints." Philadelphia and St. Louis were also found to be manipulating rape data, but instituted reforms.
Another distressing aspect is the deterring effect such treatment has on future reporting of rape. As Lisa Baucom, who spoke to Nashville's News 5 put it, "Honestly, if God forbid, it did happen to me again. I don't know if I would even go and make the call."
Police Admit Public Not Told Truth About Rapes [News Channel 5]
Related: Metro Crime Stats Ignore Hundreds Of Sex Assault Cases [News Channel 5]
City Rape Statistics, Investigations Draw Concern [Baltimore Sun]
NOPD Downgrading Of Rape Report Raises Questions [NOLA]
City, National Rape Statistics Highly Suspect [Women's E-News]