NYPD Captain Peter Rose caused a stir last week when, addressing a rise in Greenpoint sex attacks, he seemed to tell DNAinfo that the NYPD was less worried about so-called acquaintance rape and more concerned with so-called stranger rapes: “Those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards,” he said. Acquaintance rapes, on the other hand, are “not total-abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets,” Rose was quoting as saying.
Today a small group led by the National Organization for Women gathered outside Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct to protest Rose’s comments and to insist, as one participant’s poster put it, that “A Rape is A Rape is A Rape.”
The protest had been organized as a response to what Jane Manning, Director of Advocacy for NOW, told us were “outrageous comments suggesting that acquaintance rapes are not serious rapes.” She agreed that the comments were truly scary, but in the end, not all that surprising. In fact, NOW has an ongoing campaign called “Take Rape Seriously” that addresses the particular issue of holding rape victims to this “double standard.”
“It’s a longstanding problem, and it’s a pervasive problem,” Manning said. Victims of sexual assault or notoriously reluctant to file a report with the police, let alone proceed with what can be a lengthy and humiliating process of bringing charges against the perpetrator. “Having the crime trivialized by the police,” Manning pointed out, contributes to many victims’ hesitation.
The police Captain’s remarks elicited criticism from higher-ups, including the Mayor’s office. Bill de Blasio’s press secretary told DNAinfo: “The comments by the Captain do not represent the views of the Mayor, our administration, or of an NYPD that is deeply committed to fighting for survivors of sexual assault. Rape is rape, in New York City and everywhere else. The crime merits no moral qualification and does not involve shades of criminality or degrees of danger.”
On Monday, Captain Rose tweeted an apology, insinuating that he misspoke, or was perhaps misunderstood. “I deeply regret the statements I made last week about rape,” he wrote. “I failed to communicate accurately how I respond to reports of rape, and the actions the Department takes as a whole.” He added, “My comments were not meant to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault.”
Manning said that she was not satisfied by Rose’s lip service. “The apology doesn’t fix the problem,” she said. “What we are really looking for is a top-to-bottom change in how acquaintance rapes are handled by the NYPD.”
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill threw his hat into the ring in the form of a Monday op-ed for the New York Daily News that was largely in line with Rose’s apology, but addressed some ongoing changes in the department. He called Rose’s remarks “certainly insensitive” but insisted that they “left the misleading and inaccurate impression that the NYPD treats these types of cases differently, when taking reports, interviewing victims, conducting investigations or apprehending perpetrators.” As a whole, O’Neill wrote, “The NYPD takes rape and sexual assault seriously, and we investigate every report thoroughly.”
While he admitted that “only a fraction of rape victims report these crimes to the police” the Commissioner pointed to several department initiatives– the Sexual Assault Task Force outreach program, hotlines that make it easier for victims to report sex crimes, and the addition of victim advocates in 26 precincts (out of 77)– that demonstrate the NYPD is taking a new and better approach to solving and preventing cases of sexual assault and rape.
But, as NOW’s Jane Manning pointed out, in the case of the 94th Precinct, numbers aren’t helping the case for Captain Peter Rose. “As alarming as Captain Rose’s comments were, they’re not the worst thing about this story,” she said. “The worst thing about this story is that last year in the 94th precinct, 10 women reported being raped by perpetrators whose identity they knew; of those 10 reported rapes, not one resulted in an arrest. There were zero arrests in those 10 cases.” According to DNAinfo, these 10 out of 13 reported reported cases of rape in 2016 (a troubling 62 percent jump over the previous year) involved acquaintances such as Tinder dates and coworkers. Manning argued that these attitudes are not unique to Captain Rose, or even to police departments, but that they are ingrained “throughout the criminal justice system.”
Annette Covrigareo, a Bushwick resident who joined the protest, said that Captain Rose’s comments made her feel uneasy. “They’re in charge of our safety, and women’s safety, and when you have a [Captain] making those comments, [it makes me] think they’re really untrustworthy in the end.”
One of the major reasons why Andrew Adair of Greenpoint came to the demonstration was precisely because he felt concerned about his neighbors’ safety after hearing the Chief’s comments. “It’s a community,” he said. “It’s hard enough for people to come forward when this happens to them, without one of the guys in charge saying they’re not really gonna listen.”