Note: We submitted the following letter to the editor to the Washington Post on January 25th. Our letter was not published, so we are publishing it here in full.
The Post’s editorial, “The District’s Response to Rape Charges” (January 22, 2013) hailed Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s Chief Cathy Lanier for implementing recommendations by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to strengthen the city’s response to sexual assault crimes. While Lanier and MPD should be commended for taking action, the Post should also recognize the courage and hardship of the 150 sexual assault survivors who reported to HRW that they were routinely ignored and even ridiculed by police between 2008 and 2011.
The HRW report is bigger than the MPD; it points to problems with how our society addresses sexual assault. From Delhi to the DRC, Steubenville to DC, sexual assault survivors are often not believed or treated with respect by the institutions that hear their stories. Though its findings are sobering, the HRW report represents a watershed moment for activists, healthcare providers, and regular citizens to join together to address the urgent need for improvements in responding to sexual assault in our nation’s capital.
We look forward to seeing MPD devote more resources and energy to implementing HRW’s recommendations. If we work collectively to address sexual violence, DC could become a model for other cities to do the same.