Content warning: sexual violence
Today, I read a story in DNAinfo about an increase in sexual assaults in Greenpoint, New York. An increase in reported assaults generally reflects survivors of violence feeling comfortable reporting, so I initially didn’t think the article would concern me. However, as I read through quotes from the New York Police Department, I began to feel sick.
Captain Peter Rose, head of the 94th Precinct for the NYPD, apparently decided stranger rapes are more legitimate than acquaintance rapes. According to DNAinfo, Captain Rose stated:
It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [sex attacks], only two were true stranger rapes. If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards.
I certainly know a rapist with “no moral standards.” In fact, I’ve lived through the type of “total-abomination rapes” Captain Rose references to justify treating acquaintance rapes as less severe.
In 2015, I was the victim of two violent stranger rapes in New York City. Both occurred in my Columbia University dorm room — one with a weapon — leaving me with permanent physical scars (in contrast to how many sexual assaults don’t leave outward physical injuries). I understand how terrifying it is to wonder who the person behind your pain is, and how horrible it is to have to view everyone as a suspect.
But I think Captain Rose’s assertions that rapes like mine are more severe couldn’t be more wrong.
No survivor deserves to be dismissed because of a Law & Order: SVU-like view of what sexual assault looks like.
Yes, being assaulted by a stranger is terrifying. But there are many things I don’t have to deal with as a result of my rapes having been perpetrated by a stranger that many survivors of acquaintance assaults have to deal with constantly.
I’m more likely to be believed, even though only 14 percent of sexual assaults are committed by strangers and many, if not most, false allegations are regarding stranger assaults. I don’t have to question how I trusted someone who then hurt me, because I don’t know who it was. I don’t have to come to terms with having feelings for my assailant. I’m not pressured to minimize my pain because my rapes aren’t perceived as being “not severe.”
I’m not saying being raped by a stranger is any better than being assaulted by someone you know; I’m saying sexual assault, harassment, and dating violence of any kind is severe, worthy of attention, and can have a tremendous impact on those who experience it.
I’m outraged anyone, especially someone from the NYPD charged with protecting survivors of violence in New York City like myself, feels they have the right to use violations like mine to justify victim-blaming. No survivor deserves to be ignored. No survivor deserves to be dismissed because of a Law & Order: SVU-like view of what sexual assault looks like. No survivor deserves to suffer in silence because they fear facing comments like those made by Captain Rose (once again affirming why so many survivors don’t report in the first place).
As a survivor of two stranger rapes, I can say with conviction that I’m no more a survivor than other violence survivors. We all equally deserve validation, safety, and justice.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.