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Sexual Assault Investigations: Information Regarding Review of Sexual Assault Investigations by Human Rights Watch

In May 2012, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was notified by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that members of their organization had been conducting a review of MPD’s handling of adult sexual assault cases during the past 16 months and a report of their findings would soon be published.  HRW requested that MPD respond to their letter which alleges that members of MPD’s Sexual Assault Unit had failed to follow-up on complaints from survivors of sexual abuse and treated victims of sexual abuse in an insensitive manner.  HRW, however, was not willing to allow MPD to review the report or any of the data on which they relied to produce their report.  Within this difficult framework of incomplete information, MPD provided a response to HRW’s letter (both letters may be viewed through the links provided below), which acknowledges HRW’s constructive recommendations, but also highlights several concerns related to their methodology of review and unwillingness to share information that could ultimately prove helpful to both the Department and the community.

The Department is committed to thoroughly investigating all allegations of sexual abuse, while being sensitive to the unique impact of this crime on its victims. Since 2008, MPD has worked with professionals and advocates in implementing a series of reforms on the handling and investigation of sexual abuse cases, from the hospital to the police.  MPD continues to seek ways to further improve its services and welcomes the constructive feedback of numerous organizations through candid discussions and collaborative assessment.  For those reasons, MPD has requested that the Department of Justice conduct an impartial third-party review of HRW’s report and our cases (the letter may be viewed below).  While HRW will not share details of their report with MPD, the Department of Justice can conduct an independent review and help to ensure that the Department continues to provide the level of service that victims of sexual abuse deserve.

Update December 21, 2012
Additional correspondence letters have been added in the Attachments, below.

Update January 20, 2013
Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia


Update January 28, 2013

Learn more about how MPD approaches sexual assault investigations in this video with Assistant Chief Peter Newsham of the Investigative Services Bureau. He discusses the challenges surrounding reporting and investigating sexual assaults with UDC's Dr. Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Ph.D.


Voices Unheard: Case Review Opportunity

If you believe you were the victim of a sexual assault or sexually-based crime and the investigation was not concluded to your satisfaction, the MPD wants to hear from you. Our investigators want to ensure every case receives the proper treatment and full exploration of the facts toward the service of justice. Starting this week, you will be able begin the process of re-opening an investigation by contacting our special sexual assault case review team at [email protected]