The Park Slope Groper and the Depressing Truth About Rape

10/27/2011 1:50 PM |


Lisa Riordan Seville wrote a long, interesting piece for Salon about the recent sex attacks in Brooklyn, the rape cops, and the DSK acquittal. Her thesis is basically that rapes, sexual assaults, and especially gropings are way under-reported and the perpetrators of these crimes are very, very rarely convicted of them. It’s depressing as shit, basically. Some of the worst bits include cops purposely downgrading sex crimes to keep their numbers good:

Investigations by newspapers in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and elsewhere have revealed elaborate schemes by police to make rape and sexual assault disappear. Some departments “downgraded” reported felonies to misdemeanors or non-criminal complaints. Others questioned the account of the victim or lost files in bureaucratic limbo.

A year after the Baltimore Sun revealed that police had deemed hundreds of potentially legitimate sexual assaults “unfounded” to keep numbers down, reported rapes have risen by 50 percent.

NYPD tried their darndest to ignore the first in this recent spate of attacks, too.

Though clearly an assault, “they tried to say it was a girlfriend and boyfriend fighting,” neighbor Joe Barton told the Crime Report in June.

His wife, Gretchen, who had phoned 911, said the police “weren’t interested; not at all.”

It was only after neighbors went to the press with the VIDEOTAPE OF THE ATTACK that the police paid it any attention. It has definitely crossed my mind that the only reason we’re hearing so much about these Brooklyn attacks is because they’re making headlines, and that things like this are happening everywhere all the time and just not being reported in the press. It’s certainly not a coincidence that Park Slope is a wealthy area and the victims are primarily white. One has to assume that cops have the same “don’t give a shit unless you make me” attitude in precincts around the city, and particularly in areas where the NYPD seems more interested in harrassing citizenry with stop and frisk than protecting them. Ms. Seville agrees:

If national statistics hold, thousands of assaults remain unreported in New York.

“The public just doesn’t have an accurate assessment of the prevalence of crime in their communities,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Woman’s Law Project, who has been working to get widespread changes in the classification and investigation of sex crimes.

The narrative of the Brooklyn Groper has opened Brooklyn’s eyes to the prevalence of sex crimes.

But a yawning gap persists between the way we talk about sexual assault, and how it plays out in our communities.

Basically, as bad as you think it is, the reality is probably worse.

As the tally of gropings climbed, certain numbers did not appear in the press. As of Oct. 16, 174 rapes were reported in Brooklyn South, the patrol borough made up of 13 precincts in the area. That number is up more than 58 percent since 2009. NYPD did not respond to requests to specify how many reported rapes were committed by strangers, or how it was addressing the increase.

The 72nd Precinct, where much of this story takes place, has 19 rapes on the books for 2011 — a 90 percent increase over two years ago. To date, only one of those rapes has been tied to the assaults that have held the borough, and the press, in thrall.