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Manhattan DA creates workplace sexual violence task force

“It is not enough that the abuser loses his job … justice demands, and survivors deserve, that criminal abusers be held accountable in court.”
After calls to its sex crimes hotline increased after #MeToo gained momentum, Manhattan's DA created a special task force to encourage more victims to come forward.
After calls to its sex crimes hotline increased after #MeToo gained momentum, Manhattan's DA created a special task force to encourage more victims to come forward. (iStock)

In an effort to engage and encourage victims of workplace sexual violence to report incidents, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday announced the creation of a new task force specifically to handle such accounts.

Assistant DA Vanessa Puzio will head the Work-Related Sexual Violence Team, which will consist of 15 ADAs and a social worker. Throughout the year, the team, which will work closely with the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, will receive specialized technique training to “minimize the use of questions which cause survivors to relive their assaults,” according to a statement from Vance’s office.

“Work-related relationships grant predators unique access to people who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault due to the power imbalance inherent in so many work hierarchies,” Vance said. “When an act of work-related sexual misconduct constitutes a crime, it is not enough that the abuser loses his job or his industry cachet — justice demands, and survivors deserve, that criminal abusers be held accountable in court.”

Chief Assistant DA Karen Friedman-Agnifilo told the New York Daily News that the task force was created after calls to a sex crimes hotline jumped considerably after the #MeToo movement gained momentum back in October. The hotline, which fielded just 20 calls from January to October, has had more than 120 calls since.

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“It is important that survivors know that we are more than a faceless telephone number at a government office downtown,” ADA Puzio said. “The brave women and men who contact our team will be treated with the humanity, sensitivity and diligence that survivors of sexual violence deserve.”

NYC's sex crimes hotline

Anyone who believes a sex crime has occurred is urged to call the hotline at 212-335-9373. Interpreters are available for non-English speaking or hearing-impaired individuals. And if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.