Mayor, City of Waterbury
Formerly Chief of Police, Waterbury, CT
As a law enforcement official for over 27 years I have seen a great deal of change with regard to the handling of sexual assault crimes. There have been tremendous advancements in forensic technology, and the police are better trained and more sensitive to the needs of the victims than ever before. However, it is an ongoing process and I believe more needs to be done.
Here are some things to keep in mind...
Victims should seek help as soon as possible after the crime. It is natural for a victim to want to get in the shower and change their clothing after the assault, but they must resist the temptation to do so. The victim's safety is always of primary concern followed by the preservation of evidence. It is important for the victim of a sexual assault to get to a hospital where trained medical professionals can collect critical evidence using a sex crimes kit. We understand how difficult this is and Rape Crisis Counselors are available to assist the victim at the hospital and for the months following. Each victim is unique and each case is different, these counselors are trained to guide and comfort the victim and assess the shock and trauma that has occurred. They will also work with law enforcement to determine the best way to proceed based on the victim's emotional state.
Reporting the crime is also important, it is our job to make the victim feel confident and gain their trust. Each minute counts; it's important for victims to relay all information about the assault to police quickly. Information and evidence determined in the first 24 to 48 hours after the crime has occurred is crucial in helping solve the case and increases the likelihood of catching the perpetrator. This information gives police the best chance to determine the perpetrator's physical characteristics, direction of flight, vehicle type, etc. While friends and family may arrive on the scene to support the victim, it is important that the perimeter of the scene be cordoned off for forensic preservation. The forensic technology available today is very powerful and often irrefutable, however it must be obtained before it is contaminated or destroyed.
Rape is a very serious crime and anyone falsely reporting a rape is breaking the law. This causes a great deal of harm to the person they falsely accuse and their family, as well as all innocent victims. False reporting also expends law enforcement resources needlessly, and adds to the stigma often associated with this crime. There should be consequences for these actions, including arrest for filing a false complaint and or giving a false statement. Always tell the truth in every circumstance.
Men that rape are frequently repeat offenders. Victims need to realize that they have done nothing wrong and that by reporting the sexual assault and providing information they are assisting law enforcement officials in finding the criminal and preventing him from attacking again. I encourage innocent rape victims to report the crime, police are here to protect you and find the perpetrator. Rape crisis counselors and victim advocates are also here to guide you through the process. Additionally, I encourage victims and their families to inquire and take advantage of the services provided; history has shown that victims who have a good support system and receive proper treatment have a better recovery.
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