Target: Washington, D.C. City Council
Goal: Give hope to survivors of sexual assault by providing better support for victims
The vast majority of sexual assaults in America go unreported. It is the most unreported violent crime nationwide. One reason for this is the perceived insensitivity of police forces. Victims often feel that reporting their assault would only lead to greater emotional trauma at the hands of authorities. A municipal bill in Washington, D.C. aims to change that. Should it be passed and signed into law by Mayor Vincent Grey, Washington, D.C. would become one of the nation’s most progressive cities in matters of sexual assault sensitivity.
This bill would mark an important step toward improving police response to sexual assault in the District. The bill would mandate an independent expert consultant be hired to oversee the police department’s treatment of sexual assault victims, and ensure that investigations are carried out in a timely manner. It would afford survivors the right to have a public advocate available during all police interactions, something many women’s rights groups say would increase the number of survivors who report sexual assault. Having an advocate present can often make a victim feel more at ease and less traumatized while reporting a deeply personal attack to a stranger.
The bill comes on the heels of a Human Rights Watch report from 2013, which found that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of Washington, D.C., often mishandled sexual assault cases and mistreated victims. Survivors reported police officers questioning their honesty, discouraging them from submitting evidence, and lacking in communication skills. In the past, the MPD enacted some proposed reforms, but those improvements were not as far reaching as the new bill. It is encouraging that the city council of our nation’s capitol took these findings to heart and is attempting to enact meaningful change, which will improve the lives of sexual assault survivors.
The bill, which was approved for a vote on April 8, 2014, will come to an official vote on May 6th. Urge D.C. lawmakers to pass this important piece of legislation today.
Dear Members of the Washington, D.C. City Council,
Thank you for taking seriously the criticisms of human right’s groups and organizations, in regards to the treatment of sexual assault survivors by police officers. Sexual assault remains America’s most underreported violent crime. Bills such as this one could change that, allowing more sexual assault survivors to feel comfortable in seeking justice.
I am writing today to urge you to pass this bill. Make sure no survivor in D.C. ever feels too intimidated to report his or her attack again.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Adam Withnall via the independent.co.uk