Fighting Poverty with Passion
The WWAV staff and others who work with victims of sexual assault were appalled by a damning report released last week by the city’s Inspector General that found that of the 1290 sex crime “calls for service” that were issued to 5 New Orleans Police Detectives between 2011-2013, 840 were reported as ‘miscellaneous’ and no action was taken on their behalf. Of the 450 cases that actually led to an initial investigative report, there was no further documentation for 271 cases. While this new report shed light on some deficiencies in the NOPD sex crimes division, the NOPD is no stranger to accusations of police misconduct even in the case of their sex crimes unit. In 2011, the US Department of Justice issued a 158 page report on the NOPD that illustrated a long standing pattern of civil rights violations and corruption in the NOPD that “lead to constitutional violations span[ning] the operation of the entire department.” This same report noted that the NOPD made a habit of ignoring sex crimes. Officers routinely discouraged victims of assault from persecuting their cases and made a habit of reclassifying rapes as ‘miscellaneous charges’ that effectively shut down the investigation of a large number of reported sex crimes. Because of this and other shortcomings in the NOPD, the department is currently under federally mandated oversight and the Department of Justice signed a consent decree (court-enforced list of reforms) with the NOPD.
Women With A Vision continuously works with vulnerable populations that are often in the most need of police and institutional support and usually the least likely to be able to access it due to issues of access, affordability, stigma, and a distrust of the criminal justice system to actually administer justice. The pattern shown by the NOPD in routinely ignoring victims of sexual assault adds to the distrust of many survivors and community members who are part of already vulnerable, stigmatized and criminalized populations. In fact, for many of the populations we work with, sexual assault goes unreported due in part to the the problematic role law enforcement has played in many communities historically, with officers carrying out behaviors steeped in sexist and racial biases. At WWAV we see every day how the devaluing, ignoring, and erasing of women’s experiences of sexual and gender-based violence, such as the discounting of rape as a crime, becomes another form of violence against women and families. “We wonder why women don’t speak up — who are they speaking up to? You can’t trust the people whose job is to protect you,” said our Executive Director Deon Haywood in an interview with the Gambit. “What’s more egregious, and feels inhuman, is that someone’s job whose oath is to uphold the law could do something so unlawful. Think about the trauma and the revictimization that does to individuals. We need to go back to the drawing board. Our hearts go out to the families, our hearts go out to the victims.”
If you would like to support the ongoing work of Women With A Vision, please join us for our 25th Anniversary Party and Fundraiser on Sunday December 14th at Mulates. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door or bought online by clicking here.