The Ernest Opinion: Sexual violence by cops is often ignored
After police brutality, sexual misconduct is the most common complaint against cops – and yet it’s hardly given any serious thought.
The numbers are staggering:40 hours of deliberation; 18 guilty verdicts; 263 years in prison.
Those are the numbers out of an Oklahoma courtroom for ex-police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, holding him responsible for numerous incidents offirst-degree rape and forcible oral sodomy of multiple female civilians, mostly women of color.
The numbers — and press coverage — are anomalous.
Unlike the seeming ubiquitous coverage of a seeming endless string of police killings of young black men, we don't hear much about the substantial number of women who have been sexually assaulted by cops.
A recent report done by the Cato Institute found that after brutality (choking, beating, shooting) complaints,sexual misconduct was the most reported allegation of officer misbehavior.
But just as our society sails to seriously addressing rape culture in general, it' no wonder that we haven’t given proper attention to sexual transgressions by cops who are supposed to protect and serve us all.
The main reason why such incidents don’t set off media alarm bells —in comparison to other injustices —is based on of the particular sub-population most vulnerable to police sexual violence:black women.
According to the Women’s Prison Association, black women are incarcerated at 3.75 times the rate of white women, thus having more interaction with police, and overall, have a higher chance of being raped.
Cops like Holtzclaw take advantage of the socioeconomic disadvantages of women of color —who also lack the proper legal support and capital required in properly holding the officers accountable.
It took a 36-count indictmentand numerous victims speaking out and all those other numbers in order to secure a lengthy prison sentence for Holtzclaw.
However, despite Holtzclaw being found guilty on all charges pertaining to six of the black women who testified against him and some charges affecting two of them – the jury found him not guilty of 18 charges alleging crimes five other women. Those women received no personal justice.
This is what our current criminal justice system looks like for those who are victims of police sexual violence. Vulnerability, desperation, interrogationand stigma pervade spaces where Lady Justice should be wearing a blindfold to race, genderand class.
Instead we are given a reminder that such justice is only given grudgingly, if at all, to women.
Andthe often-ignored sexual abuse that continues to cripple our trust and faith in law-enforcement.
As much as my life as a young black man is beginning to matter to the media, I’m hoping that the experiences of diverse sexual assault victims matter as well.