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NYPD Special Victims unit faces Justice Department probe into allegations cops 're-traumatizing' sex assault victims

Molly Crane-Newman, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

A scathing 2018 Department of Investigation report found the unit was understaffed and lacking experienced detectives. Uncaring cops were found to regularly close cases without full investigations. The audit further concluded detectives were dismissive of date rape allegations and discouraged victims who knew their assailants — which make up the majority of cases. Eight out of 10 rapes are committed by perpetrators who knew their victim, according to Justice Department data.

Flawed Special Victims’ investigations have persisted for more than a decade and deprived “survivors and the public of the prompt, thorough, and effective investigations needed to protect public safety,” the feds wrote in a release.

Several women who testified at a City Council hearing last October said their assailants easily avoided justice thanks to inept cops.

Leslie McFadden said the cops’ handling of her report about being drugged and raped by a co-worker six years ago compounded her trauma.

“The very first question (the detective) asked me at the start of the interview was whether this was really a case of sexual assault — or just a case of regret,” McFadden testified.


Another woman, identified as Christine, said after she was raped by a man she met on a night out, the cops declined to track down CCTV footage from inside the bar, test her hair for drugs, or even look at a blueprint she drew up of the suspect’s apartment.

“To see the values of ‘courtesy,’ professionalism’ and ‘respect’ on every NYPD police car,” she said, “is an insult to my experience.”

The Justice Department announcement comes amid a nationwide shift in how law enforcement approaches victims of sex-based crimes. In May, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg moved to clear the criminal records of sex-trafficking victims who were forced to commit crimes out of desperation and necessity, recognizing that saddling them with records only made them more vulnerable and likely to be revictimized. Bragg has also pursued reforms of how sex-crime cases are prosecuted following years of criticism that the DA’s office let wealthy, politically connected predators off easy.

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