Why These Sexual Assault Survivors Support Defunding The Police

Written by on August 15, 2020

Because the rallying cry to “defund the police” reverberates throughout the nation, some critics have claimed that girls shall be irrevocably harmed if police budgets are downsized, pointing particularly to sexual assault survivors. The argument, steeped in misogyny and antiquated concepts of what a sufferer appears to be like like, makes use of crimes (largely however not at all completely) dedicated towards ladies to justify the continued overfunding of police. 

However for survivors themselves, the controversy is extra difficult. Some went to the police for assist and obtained it; most who reported crimes noticed their perpetrators stroll free. Many didn’t go to the police in any respect, fearing they might face victim-blaming questions and get little assist. Some had been assaulted by the very folks they’d need to report crimes to. 

These survivors don’t need extra police. They need extra assist. 

HuffPost spoke to greater than a dozen survivors of sexual assault in regards to the debate over defunding police. Whereas their views don’t characterize these of all survivors ― practically 434,000 folks are sexually assaulted yearly within the U.S. ― they stated police usually ended up retraumatizing them as an alternative of serving to them discover justice. 

“The prison system is constructed to punish. It’s not constructed to help the sufferer in any method,” Thomas Shim, co-founder of #WhyIDidntReport, instructed HuffPost. “As quickly as you report, you must retell your expertise time and again to finish strangers who usually victim-blame. Within the title of ‘I’m simply doing my job,’ they’ll ask you issues like ‘What had been you sporting?’”

One take a look at the statistics, and it’s straightforward to see why many survivors don’t report their assaults to legislation enforcement. Out of each 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will stroll free. Survivors who do resolve to press costs towards their attackers are often in for an extended and costly authorized battle that may finish with a prosecutor deciding to not pursue a case or a contaminated, untested rape equipment.

Simply final week, retired Memphis Police Division officers admitted to throwing hundreds of rape kits into a close-by landfill within the 1990s, and most of the kits had been for prosecutable instances inside the statute of limitations. 

Police additionally could fail to take reviews critically, particularly from members of marginalized teams or folks not stereotypically considered victims. Black ladies and non-binary individuals are “hyper-vulnerable” to sexual violence, based on the ACLU, however not as doubtless as white ladies to be believed. And an estimated 1 in 6 males have been victims of sexual violence, but their tales are sometimes disregarded.

The prison system is constructed to punish. It’s not constructed to help the sufferer in any method.” Thomas Shim, co-founder of #WhyIDidntReport

Cops are additionally perpetrators of sexual assault: Between 2005 and 2013, over 1,200 cops had been arrested for sex crimes, however these had been solely those towards victims who had been courageous sufficient to report. Regulation enforcement officers even have a storied historical past of actively focusing on extra weak folks, like intercourse staff.

Social companies that might obtain a reallocation of funding from downsized police budgets are the very sorts of companies survivors want once they report: psychological well being, dependancy and different trauma-informed companies. 

Many survivors instructed HuffPost they’d prefer to see transformative justice ― an alternate technique of addressing hurt by counting on group members as an alternative of police. Transformative justice is about communal therapeutic and prevention. Incarceration does the other; between 3% and 9% of male inmates reported experiencing sexual violence whereas incarcerated ― that’s greater than 180,000 males. 

“If I needed a strategy of accountability for the abuse I had skilled and to forestall this individual from hurting different folks, my solely possibility was to lock my rapist up,” stated Tani Ikeda, a sexual assault survivor and founding father of Survivor Love Letter. “As somebody who had relations affected by PTSD from incarceration, I needed to seek for different options.”

Nearly all of survivors Shim speaks to by means of his work help defunding the police, however a couple of ― the “fortunate and privileged” who had good experiences with the police ― will not be all the time on board with the motion, he stated. 

“They’ve had experiences the place the police really helped them discover their perpetrator and punish them. That’s superb. We fully perceive the place they’re coming from as a result of, once more, they demanded justice they usually acquired that,” he stated. 

One of the best ways to grasp how sexual assault survivors really feel about defunding the police is to hearken to them. In their very own phrases, that is how survivors really feel in regards to the motion.

Warning: Some readers could discover the beneath content material triggering. These tales have been evenly edited for size and elegance. 

“Maggie,” a 25-year-old from Iowa, instructed HuffPost she was raped a number of occasions by her then-partner over the course of some months. She by no means reported it to police due to threats from her accomplice, though she did report the abuse to her college after the final assault, which she says was essentially the most extreme.  

I incessantly thought of submitting a police report and infrequently got here near doing so. Nonetheless, my accomplice often used threats and coercion to forestall me from involving the police. Whereas initially after the final incident of rape, he expressed regret and even inspired me to hunt assist, in a while, he started to often use suicide threats if I discussed submitting a report… As well as, one in every of his favourite techniques was to attempt to persuade me that he could be repeatedly raped in jail if I reported. As a result of I beloved him and since I didn’t need him to hurt himself or be harmed, I finally selected to not pursue police involvement as a result of I feared for his security each inside and outdoors of jail.

Regardless of it getting used as a risk, I usually take into consideration how my abuser’s commentary about jail rape just isn’t with out fact. Whereas that risk will perpetually hang-out me, it has taught me an necessary lesson about how the prison justice system so usually reinforces and perpetuates violence.

I help abolishing and defunding the police. My reply would doubtless have been totally different a number of years in the past, again once I believed that legislation enforcement was a supportive mechanism for survivors. As many different folks do, I consider there’s vital work to be executed to develop methods of group accountability and group public security, but it surely has turn out to be clear to me that police had been by no means about offering security.

“Alex,” a 25-year-old from Denver, instructed HuffPost she was sexually assaulted by a man buddy whereas she was in school. Alex, who’s Black, stated she didn’t report her assault as a result of she was afraid that her attacker, a Black man, would face penalties far worse than his actions resulting from racism in policing. She additionally determined to not report as a result of she felt strain to make sure the illustration of the Black group at her college was not affected. 

Many Black college students at our college had already had points with the police racially profiling them and harassing them. Whereas what [my attacker] did to me was improper and unlawful, I don’t suppose it ought to include any danger of endangering his life. Moreover, due to the criminalization of Black our bodies in our society, I all the time hesitate to incite police interactions with Black folks as I’m afraid of each perpetuating the narrative of our criminality and placing their lives in peril. Inside our sphere of affect, my attacker was additionally somebody who was incessantly pointed to for example of “Black Excellence” and has been instrumental in lots of efforts to enhance the experiences of Black college students on our campus. On the time, it was a cost-benefit of him being investigated and punished for his habits, and the way that might change how our group was seen. Whereas I do know in the end he doesn’t singlehandedly characterize Black college students and alumni of our college, I don’t suppose it could assist us in our efforts in the direction of racial justice both. 

I’m a robust supporter of defunding the police and making vital different modifications to our prison justice system. Our present methods don’t work for survivors of crime or their assailants. I didn’t report in no small half as a result of I don’t wish to perpetuate a damaged system that income on BIPOC our bodies. As a survivor, I believe I’ve a stronger sense that the system doesn’t work for anybody apart from these in control of it. We shouldn’t have survivors who aren’t keen to go to the police as a result of they know they gained’t be handled with dignity and respect. We shouldn’t have survivors who see their attackers be given punishments both too lenient or too harsh for his or her crimes, fully due to who that attacker is. As a survivor who understands the failings of the penal methods, I do know the system is damaged on either side. 

Tara Burns is a 38-year-old intercourse employee and intercourse staff’ rights advocate residing in Alaska. She was intercourse trafficked and assaulted at a younger age and now paperwork cases of violence towards intercourse staff, together with acts of violence perpetrated by police. 

Police have solely ever compounded the trauma of sexual assaults for me. Nobody has ever gone to jail for sexually assaulting me, whether or not I used to be intercourse working on the time or not. 

As an advocate for intercourse staff making an attempt to report violence for the final 5 years, it has been a battle to get police to even take reviews at occasions. Nobody has ever gone to jail for sexually assaulting or intercourse trafficking any of the survivors who I’ve supported in reporting. I’m completely for defunding the police and redirecting funds to more practical methods.

Lane Lofaso, a 17-year-old from New York, instructed HuffPost he was in a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship for a yr, beginning when he was 15 years outdated. He stated he plans to report his abuser quickly. 

Defunding the police is one thing that ought to occur instantly. The cash just isn’t going to any of the proper locations, and officers will not be skilled correctly to deal with sexual assaults and talking to victims/survivors.

My expertise as a survivor positively impacts my feeling and opinion on defunding the police and I’m glad that it does. Personally, I don’t suppose I’ll ever get justice. Sexual assault causes lifelong trauma and nothing will ever repair that. However the closest factor to that’s ensuring the perpetrator is punished and that’s the place legislation enforcement is available in.

Amanda Thomashow, a 31-year-old from Michigan, was sexually assaulted by former Michigan State College and USA Gymnastics workforce physician Larry Nassar throughout a 2014 medical examination. On the time, she filed a Title IX grievance with MSU however the college concluded Nassar’s conduct was not sexual in nature. Her Title IX grievance was one of many few breadcrumbs that later led to Nassar’s downfall. 

My expertise as a survivor has solely knowledgeable me extra on how necessary it’s that we take funds away from the police and redistribute them into group companies and schooling. My experiences with the police have been nothing however unfavorable and terrifying. These experiences solely carried out my trauma longer than was obligatory and it’s been very clear that they solely care about my instances and the hurt that’s been executed to me if they will prosecute, put anyone in jail or get a high-quality out of them.

Maya Siegel, a 20-year-old who based the survivor-centered group House to Converse, instructed HuffPost she was raped by a boyfriend at 14 and later sexually assaulted by a special perpetrator at 18. She determined to not report back to police as a result of she was afraid of being victim-blamed. 

I didn’t report as a result of I didn’t suppose I’d be believed with out proof. Society is stuffed with abuser sympathizers and judges that blame survivors for his or her garments, alcohol consumption, or being in a relationship (and I used to be in a relationship with him on the time); I knew that I didn’t have a case. Moreover, despite the fact that I knew that bodily proof is gone in three days, it took me greater than three days to grasp what occurred and inform my mother and father.

I don’t suppose police are the reply, particularly with out correct schooling. In any case, 85% of federal funding for home violence is devoted to legislation enforcement; it must be redistributed to instantly assist survivors, an instance could be serving to them cowl medical or authorized bills. It’s been six years and I’m nonetheless working with medical doctors; I’d have beloved an emergency grant or additional help.

Riley Reed, a 20-year-old from Chicago, was sexually assaulted two separate occasions. Reed disclosed the assaults to a professor however didn’t report back to police, realizing the method of reporting can oftentimes be simply as traumatic because the preliminary assault. 

I didn’t go ahead with a police report as a result of I didn’t wish to need to undergo an extended, arduous course of… I didn’t wish to really feel victimized or be scrutinized with so many alternative questions… I didn’t really feel like I had apparent proof. Ladies particularly are made to really feel prefer it’s our fault and we introduced it on ourselves.

I totally help defunding the police. I believe we’d like different assets that may assist folks in many alternative harmful circumstances. The police don’t have the right coaching to take care of trauma. The those who helped me essentially the most by means of my course of had been counselors. Individuals which can be outfitted with correct information must be despatched to deescalate or assist conditions that police so usually fail to do.

“Sabrina,” a 45-year-old lady from New York Metropolis, stated she has been sexually assaulted a number of occasions, however essentially the most traumatic was when she was sexually abused as a 9-year-old. Her household reported the abuse to the police however, wanting again, she felt she was not accountable for that call as a result of she was so younger. 

In some methods, the urgency to go to the police (on my stepfather’s half) was as traumatizing because the precise assault. My mom didn’t wish to name them. I didn’t wish to name them. We did it as a result of he positively felt we must always. What adopted: The police blamed my mom, threatened to report her to CPS, I needed to go to a hospital for an examination which was completely terrifying. 

I’m curious to know extra in regards to the particulars [of defunding the police]. But when it means lowering budgets and redistributing these funds to the group, then completely sure [I support it].

Tani Ikeda, a survivor from Los Angeles, instructed HuffPost she was sexually assaulted when she was youthful and entered right into a four-year course of with legislation enforcement and the prison justice system to attempt to maintain her rapist accountable. 

It felt like a secondary violence to have my recollections scrutinized by police who requested me scientific particulars about my assault, like against the law scene from which they had been extracting proof. The way in which I dressed, the accuracy of my reminiscence, my inventive on-line poetry, and even my smile ― all turned proof that I used to be at fault for my very own rape. 

How can we observe transformative justice in our on a regular basis lives and relationships? In a society that devalues human life, we will construct extra relationships which can be based mostly on curiosity and pleasure somewhat than gaining social standing and profession development. We heart our personal pleasure so what appears to be like good on the surface additionally feels good on the within. In elementary college, kids who misbehave are given timeout. After we turn out to be adults, they go to jail. As a substitute of on the lookout for folks to punish, I’m deeply invested in undoing the generational cycles of hurt in our group by means of every of us engaged on ourselves. 

“Clare” is a 30 year-old-woman residing in California. Rising up in Michigan, she was sexually and bodily abused by her mom’s boyfriend for 12 years. She didn’t report the abuse however neighbors incessantly referred to as police for noise complaints. 

I used to be questioned by the officers a couple of occasions, all the time in entrance of my abusers the place I didn’t really feel secure to inform them the reality or ask for assist. 

Each time I see articles and posts about abolishing or defunding the police, I’m annoyed that this didn’t occur earlier, that I wasn’t saved, and that the system failed me time and again. I might have been spared if skilled social staff had been concerned. The police didn’t save me from being molested and assaulted time and again for twelve years. Individuals argue that if we defund the police, who shall be there to guard ladies from being raped on the streets? However they neglect the truth that it’s already occurring, and it seems like every one in every of these individuals are saying that my ache, our ache, doesn’t matter, that it isn’t sufficient of a cause. 

Cassandra, an 18-year-old from Maryland, was raped by a classmate on New Yr’s Eve in 2018 when she was 16 years outdated. She didn’t report her assault as a result of her perpetrator used a condom and since she didn’t depart any marks on him. She additionally didn’t really feel like she actually understood what occurred to her till she left for school. 

I believe we must always concentrate on restorative justice and preventative justice as an alternative of being reactionary and shopping for right into a system that always perpetuates extra hurt as an alternative of truly serving to. My expertise has helped me notice that our jail system and justice system is flawed in such a method that it doesn’t obtain significant justice. My rapist ―  if he had been charged, tried, and locked up ― would have finally gotten out with no higher understanding of consent or what he did to me. He’d most likely have lingering emotions or resentment in the direction of me and the justice system whereas by no means acknowledging the hurt he perpetrated towards me. What I’ve realized is that rape is about energy and entitlement. That feeling of entitlement by no means leaves when the punishment is just jail time. Moreover, inside the jail system, sexual assault is commonplace. Prisons conduct strip searches, along with rape being prevalent in prisons. I personally consider that true justice just isn’t achieved by perpetrating the identical hurt executed to you onto the perpetrator and persevering with the cycle of violence however somewhat promote therapeutic and dialogue. All I need is a public apology and an acknowledgment of what my rapist has executed. I simply need to have the ability to proceed on with my life realizing that he is aware of what he did to me was improper and he gained’t do it once more.

Need assistance? Go to RAINN’s Nationwide Sexual Assault On-line Hotline or the Nationwide Sexual Violence Useful resource Heart’s web site.


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