On July 1, New Orleans resident Maria Treme woke up with bruises, next to a brand of personal lubricant she'd never seen before. Her car was gone, as was any memory of anything that had happened the night prior.
She remembered going to the swanky hipster hive known as The Country Club for drinks and socializing, she told Jezebel in an interview recently. She remembered having a few drinks, and closing out a small bar tab. She doesn't remember what happened after that, because Treme believes she was drugged and raped.
Treme did everything she thought she was "supposed to" do after realizing that she'd been victimized. After she saw that her car was gone, she called a friend, and the two of them retraced her steps back to the Country Club, where surveillance footage showed Treme engaging in sex with two different men and leaving with a third, wearing only a towel. She also signed a second, much larger bar tab.
She went to the New Orleans Police Department. And then, according to David Hammer of WWLT:
After reviewing some of the evidence with her, The Country Club called the police. NOPD says it got the call at 2:21 p.m. on July 1. Records show that an officer responded at 3:25 p.m. and called sex crimes Detective Keisha Ferdinand at 4:08.
Treme says Ferdinand was very professional and gathered a lot of evidence from the videos, from the club's staff, from other witnesses and even back at Treme's apartment in Mid-City. But the NOPD didn't take Treme to Interim LSU Hospital to get a rape kit and toxicology screening until about 8:30 that night.
Treme's medical records, which she turned over to WWL, show that the four-plus hours of exams and blood tests didn't start until 11 p.m.
"I'd never been drugged. I'd never been raped. I guess I just didn't know the proper rape procedure," Treme told Jezebel.
Three weeks passed, and Treme still hadn't heard anything about her case. She decided to speak with a local news outlet. Shortly thereafter, she got a call from Keisha Ferdinand of the NOPD, scolding Treme for talking to the media because she was "making the NOPD look very bad" and instructing her to come in for a meeting. Treme said she was bringing her attorney (which, by law, she has a right to do), but Ferdinand said that wasn't allowed. Ferdinand ultimately admitted that Treme was permitted to legal representation.
In addition to failing to bring her to the hospital for a rape kit right away and initially denying her the right to talk to detectives with an attorney present, the NOPD didn't investigate physical evidence left in Treme's stolen car, which was located and towed to an impound lot. Investigators claim that the two crimes—Treme's drugging and sexual assault and the theft of her car—were unrelated, despite the fact that they occurred the same night, and as a result of the same circumstances.
The Country Club announced that it was changing its policy to disallow nude sunbathing shortly after Treme's ordeal, and in response, an anonymous person (or persons) papered a nearby neighborhood with posters bearing Maria Treme's face between the words "NO EVIDENCE OF RAPE!" Treme took to Facebook and penned an angry response, urging her friends to share it. She told Jezebel that she's fed up with being told she should be ashamed. "It's misogynistic bullshit," she said.
The NOPD hasn't figured out who drugged and raped Treme, nor have they discerned who hung her photo all over a New Orleans neighborhood. But that's not the department's only oversight of late.
A new report, conducted by New Orleans' Office of Inspector General, suggests that Treme's case—while incredibly frustrating—isn't all that special. In fact, the New Orleans Police Department's Special Victims section (the department that handles domestic abuse, rape, and child abuse) has an impressive history of simply failing to investigate rape reports.
According to a police inspector's report, five detectives in the NOPD's special victims section straight up failed to perform even a basic investigation on 1,111 sex crime-related calls over the course of three years. From CNN:
The bureau has identified 1,290 sex crime-related calls assigned to the five detectives and determined that in only 179 instances — 13.9% — did the detectives file "supplemental reports documenting any additional investigative efforts beyond the initial report; these 179 supplemental reports were the total written investigative product of the five detectives for sex crime-related calls for service for three years."
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said he'd never seen anything like this, "not in terms of the volume, the wholesale nature of it."
While we don't know that one of those five do-nothing detectives were assigned to Treme's case, we do know other specific cases they worked on. And the incompetence (or laziness) on a division-wide scale is pretty atrocious. If the detective on Treme's case was one of the good ones, what does that say about those five "bad" detectives?
In one case detailed in the report, a two-year-old who tested positive for an STD in the emergency room after an alleged sexual assault had their case handled by a detective who wrote that the toddler "did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation." The case was closed, "due to a lack of evidence."
Another recent inspector general report found that of 90 randomly selected major sex crimes cases that did get reported to the department in 2013, over half were internally downgraded to lesser crimes.
The NOPD's glaring ineptitude is brought into sharp relief by cases like Treme's, or the anonymous two year old, or the case of former NFL player Darren Sharper, accused of drugging and raping multiple women in New Orleans. Earlier this year, the New Orleans DA announced that even though a rape investigation was allegedly conducted and evidence was allegedly gathered and a warrant was issued for Sharper's arrest back in February, he still hasn't been indicted:
Sharper and Erik Nunez, a 26-year-old from Metairie who described himself as an event promoter for the NFL, are accused of raping two women at Sharper's Central Business District apartment last September. The New Orleans Police Department referred the complaint to prosecutors last year, but an arrest warrant wasn't drawn up until the end of February after authorities in California began prosecuting Sharper.
"We have not presented that to the grand jury as of this time," [Orleans Parish DA Leon] Cannizzaro said, without commenting on the strength or weakness of the evidence that prompted the arrest warrants. "The charge for which he was arrested involves aggravated rape. Because there is no statute of limitations on the charge of aggravated rape, since it carries a life sentence, we are not necessarily being pushed with regard to time limits."
In other words, they're taking their sweet time with the case. Lucky for Sharper's other would-be victims, authorities in Arizona and California took the charges more seriously.
But for every Darren Sharper, there are god knows how many other perpetrators who know that the NOPD doesn't give a shit about sex crimes, and who can use that to their advantage. Stories like Maria Treme's suggest that as long as sex crimes aren't investigated seriously, sex offenders can be as brazen as they want. They can drug women in trendy hangouts and in plain view of security cameras. They can steal her car and leave bolt cutters in the backseat. They can plaster the face of a sex assault victim all over. Nobody's going to do anything about it.
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