Gainesville Area NOW: Women need a Police Review Board
Statement by NOW in front of the Gainesville Police Department, July 8, 2002:
Gainesville Area National Organization for Women (NOW) is here today to denounce the Gainesville Police Department's poor track record on crimes against women. Today the City Commission has the opportunity to vote on whether or not to form a Citizen Police Review Board - and we demand they vote in favor of this measure and immediately establish a Police Review Board.
Our police department has a pretty bad scorecard on protecting women. As of May 31st 2002, in an 18 month period, 109 reports of sexual assault were reported to GPD. Out of these 109 reports, only 22 arrests have been made. Statistics released by the State of Florida in 1998 reveal that our State Attorney's office only prosecutes 3 out of every 10 cases. Based on these statistics, only 6 of the original 109 will ever see their rapist prosecuted - a dismal 5.5%. And if you take into account that only 1 in 4 rapes ever gets reported according to the FBI - that means an estimated 436 rapes occurred and only 6 got to court - which translates to a mere 1.37% chance of a rapist ever seeing his day in court. Those are pretty good odds for the rapist. These figures lead us to believe that our police and state attorney don't seem too interested in deterring rapists - in fact they are making the crime pretty easy to get away with.
In the face of this good ole boys system, where 1 in 73 rapes will ever see prosecution, women are seeing on TV and in the papers that they are actually arresting women who report rape. They are not just turning us away, or dropping our cases, they are actually throwing us in jail now. In April of 2002 GPD arrested a woman for allegedly filing a false rape report and jailed her for at least two weeks. This is the second woman that we know of in Gainesville in the past three years that has been arrested and jailed for coming forward to report a rape. These actions show us that GPD is not interested in stopping violence against women - they are interested in shutting us up and punishing us when we come forward. In February 1999 a woman was arrested for reporting she was raped at the Delta Chi fraternity house at the University of Florida. Campus NOW led a 10-month campaign that gathered 3,500 signatures and international support for the woman and State Attorney Rod Smith was forced to drop the false report charges against her and the University Police Department also added a wing for victim services. Recently at Harvard University, the school passed a resolution that requires women to provide their own evidence and witnesses if they want the school to take action on their claim. As if it is not enough to endure rape, go through demeaning and humiliating questioning from police and deal with public attention - now we have to do the investigating ourselves? This is a double standard for crimes against women. What other crime draws this procedure? Surely businesses that report robberies are not required to provide witnesses before their claims are investigated. The percentage of prosecuted robberies without a doubt surpasses the 5.5% sexual assault prosecution rate.
The track record of GPD on violence against women and the arrests of women by police is part of a larger problem - a sexist system designed to strip us of basic human rights - our right to freedom from violence and the threat of violence against us. The system is set up to benefit men and punish women - GPD arresting this woman is just one blatant example of men lashing back at us for speaking up. Candi Churchill, former president of Campus NOW stated this at the 1999 Justice for Women NOW Rally: "When men get away with crimes against women, it makes it easier for them to get away with other forms of sexism: judging us based on how we look, talking over us in work or in social situations, not being concerned with birth control, and not sharing housework and childcare. . . If the standard for what men can get away with is so low that men who rape us have over a 98% chance of getting away with it, then what grounds do I have for demanding equality in my relationships with my co-workers, father or boyfriend?"
We are here to let GPD know they can't get away with punishing us when we come forward to report crimes against us. We are presenting GPD with the following demands:
In addition, we are issuing this demand to all men - Men - Stop raping, harassing, assaulting, and stalking us. Also - stop backing up the men who do these things by speaking out against them and by supporting us when we come forward.
Nicole Hardin of Gainesville Area National Organization reads NOWs statement in front of the Gainesville Police Department on July 8. Campus NOW and other members of the community participated in the demonstration, which was well-attended despite intermittent rainstorms.
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