Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/reported-rapes 2017-12-12T10:17:06+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Increase in Rape Reports Given Little Attention Amid Celebration of Crime Drops 2016-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6494:increase-in-rape-reports-given-little-attention-amid-celebration-of-crime-drops Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28767805790_001763d3a7_z.jpg" alt="NYPD BdB presser " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio at a press briefing (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You&rsquo;re going to hear some numbers that are striking,&rdquo; <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/655-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-police-commissioner-bratton-hold-press-conference-discuss-july" target="_blank">said</a> Mayor Bill de Blasio as he began an August 4 press conference on the city&rsquo;s latest crime statistics. &ldquo;2016 saw the fewest shootings, the fewest robberies, the fewest burglaries, the fewest auto-thefts of any first-half of a year in a CompStat era. So, when you think about that, the lives of everyday New Yorkers are freer. They&rsquo;re more peaceful. They&rsquo;re less disrupted. And people have every reason to feel safer.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, there are some striking numbers that are less often heard during the mayor&rsquo;s crime briefings, which have lately had a celebratory tone, like the city&rsquo;s rising number of reported rapes, increasing reports of misdemeanor sexual assaults, and decline in the percentage of reported rapes that result in arrest.</p> <p dir="ltr">While violent crimes like murder and shootings are largely declining in New York City, reports of another type of violent crime, rape, have increased over the past two years. Through the middle of August, according to NYPD statistics, there have been 717 shooting victims in the city, a 15.5 percent drop from the same point last year, and<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank"> 931 reported rapes</a>, a 7.4 percent increase from 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many in New York City are fixated on gun violence, and for good reason, but the consistent uptick in another violent act that can leave physical and psychological scars remains troubling and under-appreciated by many.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rape, like all other felonies in New York City, has declined since the NYPD began keeping track of such crimes using CompStat more than two decades ago, yet the recent increase in reported rapes demands attention. It is unclear if that attention is being given, since discussion of rape is largely missing from the mayoral-NYPD press conferences and data from the NYPD shows that the percentage of reported rapes resulting in arrest dropped 16 percent from 2009 to 2015 (from 71 to 55 percent), while the number of reported rapes has increased 19.3 percent during that same time.</p> <p dir="ltr">To celebrate the crime statistics for the first half of 2016, the NYPD created a six-page pamphlet, &ldquo;Half Year Crime Report,&rdquo; that indicates drops in murder, shootings, and overall arrests on the cover. Inside the handout, there are infographics about &ldquo;precision policing&rdquo; and &ldquo;gang takedowns,&rdquo; as well as a page labeled &ldquo;The Right Direction,&rdquo; showing downward arrows labeled &ldquo;murder,&rdquo; &ldquo;shootings,&rdquo; &ldquo;robbery,&rdquo; and &ldquo;burglary.&rdquo; There is no mention of the increase in reported rapes on that page or any of the others.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/NYPD_Right_Direction_graphic_no_rape.png" alt="NYPD Right Direction graphic no rape" width="500" height="250" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p dir="ltr">As of 2015, roughly half of reported rapes result in arrest, and even when arrests are made, charges are not always filed. Tracking the results of these reported rapes (prosecution, conviction, dismissal, etc.) is further obfuscated by the way in which both city and state authorities, from the NYPD and the District Attorneys to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, keep records of rapes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reported rapes in the city declined between 2003 and 2009, dropping from 2,070 in 2003 to the city&rsquo;s all time low of 1,205 in 2009. The number of reported<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/seven_major_felony_offenses_2000_2015.pdf" target="_blank"> rapes steadily increased</a> in the three years that followed, with 1,373 in 2010; 1,420 in 2011; and 1,445 in 2012.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reported rapes dipped slightly for two years (1,378 in 2013 and 1,352 in 2014), before rising once again, to 1,438, in 2015. This year, 2016, is on track to have an even greater number of reported rapes: through mid-August, there were<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank"> 931 reported rapes</a>, up from 867 this time last year, putting the city on pace to have 1,544 reported rapes by the end of 2016 (about 100 more than last year).</p> <p dir="ltr">It is possible that the rising number of reported rapes is partially the result of more rapes being reported, rather than more rapes being committed, something which outgoing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has dubbed the &ldquo;Cosby Effect,&rdquo; referring to Bill Cosby and the attention around all of his alleged victims coming forward, some after many years. Heightened awareness about sexual assault and improved social norms about reporting rape could be leading more victims, especially women, to come forward.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;With the rapes that were recorded in New York City this year, one out of four did not occur this year &ndash; and that&rsquo;s fairly consistent with what we see in prior years,&rdquo; Deputy Commissioner Dermot Shea<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> said</a> during a July press conference at which NYPD officials and Mayor de Blasio celebrated the half-year crime numbers. (At that press conference, Shea did note the increase in rape - &ldquo;up 7.3 percent,&rdquo; he said - but he did not discuss efforts to combat the uptick. At the August crime briefing for press Shea said &ldquo;rape was up&rdquo; and moved on.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 1,438 rapes reported in 2015, 235 occurred prior to that year, dating<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/analysis_and_planning/historical_nyc_crime_data.shtml" target="_blank"> as far back at 1975</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Police departments<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/02/bill-cosby-might-have-changed-the-way-police-investigate-rape/" target="_blank"> across the country are reporting a similar trend</a>, and the increase in reported rapes coincides with city and state efforts to encourage more victims of rape to come forward and report the crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the past two years, the NYPD has created new agreements with local colleges to encourage immediate reporting of sexual assault, worked with hospital emergency rooms to encourage reporting, and distributed 48,000 cards and flyers throughout the city explaining sexual violence and encouraging people to report crimes to the Special Victims Division. In 2014, the Metropolitan Transit Authority created an<a href="http://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/app/ask_sh" target="_blank"> online portal</a> for sexual misconduct complaints, where victims may attach a photo and make an anonymous report.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it would be logical to presume that if there&rsquo;s an increase in acquaintance rapes being reported, it might in fact be an increase in reporting, because there has been so much focus on this issue of non-stranger rape in the past few years, especially on college campuses,&rdquo; said Lisa Smith, former chief sex crimes prosecutor for the Brooklyn District Attorney&rsquo;s office and professor at Brooklyn Law School. &ldquo;I definitely think the publicity is encouraging women to report.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there are likely far more rapes occurring in New York City than are reported, given that nationally only about 34 percent of rapes result in a police report,<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system" target="_blank"> according to the Department of Justice</a>, with less than 2 percent of those reports resulting in the rapist&rsquo;s incarceration. And while the city&rsquo;s efforts to encourage more victims to come forward are praiseworthy, they should coincide with an increase in the number of rape cases that actually result in some semblance of justice for the victim, and with efforts to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the NYPD could do more to let New Yorkers know where stranger rapes are occurring. Currently, CompStat 2.0 maps incidents of rape down to the nearest intersection, but does not distinguish which category of rape the crime falls under - stranger, acquaintance, or domestic. While the vast majority of rapes reported in the city are acquaintance or domestic (92 percent, according to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> the NYPD</a>), rapes committed by strangers also rose from 2014 to 2015 (<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/nyregion/rape-by-strangers-new-york-city.html" target="_blank">117 to 166</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, &ldquo;there is no easy way for a civilian to determine&rdquo; where stranger rapes are frequently occurring, as New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/nyregion/rape-by-strangers-new-york-city.html" target="_blank"> pointed out</a>, such as in 2013, when a man raped four women in the span of a week, finding all of his victims along the B12 bus route between Crown Heights and Canarsie.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reports of misdemeanor sex crimes, including forcible touching, public lewdness, and unlawful surveillance, have also spiked in recent years, particularly on the subways, where reports of such crimes have increased by<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2016/06/chief-of-transit-joseph-foxs-statement-before-mta-nyct-committee/" target="_blank"> 56.7 percent</a> (431 crimes through May, 275 by the same time in 2015).</p> <p dir="ltr">By mid-August 2014, there were 1,595 reported misdemeanor sex crimes in New York City. By the same time in 2015, that number rose to 1,887. This year through mid-August, there have been 2,096 reported misdemeanor sex crimes, an<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/2e5c3f4b-85c1-4635-83c6-22b27fe7c75c/view/89" target="_blank"> 11.1 percent increase</a> from last year. Again, this increase could be due in part to efforts to encourage victims to report sex offenses, rather than an increase in the number of sex offenses occurring.</p> <p>Ideally, more reports would lead to more arrests, more prosecutions, and more convictions - more justice for victims who are increasingly willing to put their faith in the system and go through with the onerous and emotionally taxing process of reporting the crime and all that follows. Data from the NYPD shows this is not the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/reported-table-sans-caption.png" alt="reported table sans caption" width="580" height="274" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />*Arrest data provided by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information</p> <p dir="ltr">Even when arrests are made, charges are not necessarily filed. Best-selling memoirist Mary Karr recounted<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-crotchgrabber" target="_blank"> an instance of forcible touching</a> on the streets of Manhattan for The New Yorker earlier this August, culminating in the arrest of a man she dubbed &ldquo;the crotchgrabber.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Nobody ever called me to court, but the cops had cuffed him, dragged him out of the bus station, and booked him,&rdquo; Karr wrote. &ldquo;A woman should be able to count on follow-through from the justice system&mdash;they&rsquo;d eventually fail to charge him.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The picture is incomplete without data on outcomes of these arrests and reports, yet the fact that only half of reported rapes result in arrest, and the number of arrests is declining while the number of reported rapes is increasing is cause for concern.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because of the way New York City&rsquo;s Police Department and District Attorney offices keep track of these crimes, it is nearly impossible to determine whether the city&rsquo;s efforts to encourage more rape victims to report crimes to the police are actually resulting in more justice for the victims, or, ultimately, more trauma, forcing victims relive the event multiple times while relaying their stories to the police, with nothing to show for it but a police report and wasted time.</p> <p dir="ltr">The NYPD does not keep track of prosecutions or convictions, while the District Attorney offices do not keep numbers of reports or arrests. This disconnect makes it difficult to link the number of reported rapes to the number of prosecutions and convictions that result from those reported rapes. Tracking the outcomes is further complicated by the fact that each of the five District Attorney offices may not maintain records in the same way.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services keeps more consistent records of arrests and dispositions across all five boroughs. Yet, data compiled by DCJS presents its own challenge: not only is DCJS unable to link the number of reported rapes to the number of rape arrests made (rather, its data on the outcomes of those arrests begin with the arrest, not with the report), the number of rapes the NYPD reports to DCJS (<a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/NYSCrimeReport2015-prelim.pdf" target="_blank">2,244 in 2015</a>) is far greater than the number of rapes the NYPD reports internally. This is because the NYPD must use the FBI&rsquo;s definition of rape when reporting the number of rapes that occurred in any given year to the state, which is broader than the NYPD&rsquo;s definition.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Rape is a crime of opportunity, so it&rsquo;s a bit harder to prevent,&rdquo; NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Lieutenant John Grimpel told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. &ldquo;Once we are made aware of a crime, we investigate all rapes the same. If a violent crime happened to you, we want you to come forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Those who commit sexual violence are<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system" target="_blank"> less likely to go to jail or prison</a> than other criminals, like those who commit robbery or assault. The vast majority of reported rapes in New York City are committed by someone the victim knows, yet, as NYPD Deputy Commissioner Shea<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> said</a> in July, &ldquo;the unique nature of these cases at times makes it difficult as we move through the criminal justice system.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While stranger rapes constitute a small percent of the city&rsquo;s reported rapes, they typically command greater police and media attention, and &ldquo;there is very good evidence that those cases end up in prosecution or conviction most of the time,&rdquo; said Smith, formerly of the Brooklyn DA office, now at Brooklyn Law School.</p> <p dir="ltr">Getting justice for the victims of domestic or acquaintance rape is generally a murkier process, though in the past few years, stories of acquaintance rape - from Bill Cosby to college campuses - have begun to be taken more seriously.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo has put some focus on college campus sexual assault in New York, signing legislation requiring all colleges and universities to <a href="https://www.ny.gov/programs/enough-enough-combating-sexual-assault-college-campuses" target="_blank">adopt new measures</a> to prevent and respond to rape in July 2015. In New York City, the Manhattan District Attorney&rsquo;s Sex Crimes Unit regularly conducts <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6092-to-combat-increase-in-reported-rapes-experts-point-to-prevention" target="_blank">trainings</a> for representatives from local colleges and universities to help individuals better identify and encourage reporting of sexual assault. DA Cy Vance has also dedicated money from his office&rsquo;s settlements to <a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-awards-38-million-grants-help-32-jurisdictions-20-states-test-" target="_blank">reducing the backlog of rape kits</a> across the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">Campus rape in New York City made widespread headlines in 2014 when then-Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz began carrying a mattress around campus to protest the fact that her accused rapist remained on campus. Across the country, shockingly light sentences handed down to convicted rapists in cases of acquaintance rape on college campuses have garnered national attention in recent months. Brock Turner, the Stanford student<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/10/university-of-colorado-sexual-assault-austin-wilkerson" target="_blank"> convicted of three counts of sexual assault</a>, was sentenced to six months in jail in June (he faced a maximum of 14 years in state prison). On August 10, a judge ruled that Austin Wilkerson, a University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/austin-wilkerson-boulder-rape-prison_us_57abb86ce4b06e52746f3b22" target="_blank"> will not have to serve a prison sentence</a>, and instead sentenced him to two years work-release and 20 years probation.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If more than a quarter of people in this community were killed by a drunk driver, or assaulted or menaced during an invasion of their home, the community would call for a stronger message than a sentence of probation with no punitive sanction to effectuate respect for the law, the deterrence of crime, and the protection of the public,&rdquo; District Attorney Stanley Garnett<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/austin-wilkerson-boulder-rape-prison_us_57abb86ce4b06e52746f3b22" target="_blank"> wrote</a> in a victim memo to the court.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Sexual assault should be no different. Murderers go to prison. Armed robbers go to prison. Rapists go to prison. This is what justice requires,&rdquo; Garnett wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, the city should also invest more in efforts to prevent sexually violent crimes from happening in the first place. In order to truly reduce the number of sexual assaults that take place, advocates and the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention alike say &ldquo;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank">primary prevention</a>&rdquo; or prevention education is the most effective method.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So much of prevention for non-stranger rapes has to do with educating young people about consent in middle school and in high school,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;There are many different institutions that need to get involved in that, and law enforcement is only one spoke on that wheel.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, California became the first state in the nation to<a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-me-pc-brown-high-school-sexual-assaults-20151001-story.html" target="_blank"> mandate lessons on sexual violence prevention</a> and affirmative consent in high schools. Yet in New York City, educational programs &ldquo;shown to prevent sexual violence perpetration,&rdquo; according to the CDC, are<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6092-to-combat-increase-in-reported-rapes-experts-point-to-prevention" target="_blank"> not mandated</a>, but rather, are left up to the discretion of the principal in middle and high schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration and the City Council have demonstrated willingness to fund programs to prevent violence and protect New Yorkers time and again, from<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/401-14/de-blasio-administration-city-council-expand-citywide-initiative-reduce-gun-violence-launch/#/0" target="_blank"> investing $12.7 million</a> in gun violence prevention programs in 2014 to allocating<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/069-16/mayor-bill-de-blasio-2015-was-officially-safest-year-ever-new-york-city-streets#/0" target="_blank"> $115 million in new capital funds</a> earlier this year to expand the city&rsquo;s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judging by the numbers, the city&rsquo;s efforts seem to be working. Shooting victims are down<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs-en-us-city.pdf" target="_blank"> 15.6 percent</a> over the past two years. There were 231 traffic fatalities in 2015, 66 fewer than in 2013, the year before Vision Zero began. There were more reported rapes in the first three months of 2016 alone, 310, than traffic fatalities in all of 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously, we are deeply concerned about the safety of the women in this city, and again, we don&rsquo;t like some of these trends we see and we want to combat them,&rdquo; Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/073-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-project-fast-track-ensure-shooters-quickly" target="_blank">said</a> in response to a question about the rising rape numbers during a January 12 press conference. &ldquo;We take this very, very seriously and it&rsquo;s our responsibility, period.&rdquo;</p> <p>The mayor&rsquo;s office declined to comment further for this story, deferring to the NYPD.</p> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/28767805790_001763d3a7_z.jpg" alt="NYPD BdB presser " width="600" height="400" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio at a press briefing (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You&rsquo;re going to hear some numbers that are striking,&rdquo; <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/655-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-police-commissioner-bratton-hold-press-conference-discuss-july" target="_blank">said</a> Mayor Bill de Blasio as he began an August 4 press conference on the city&rsquo;s latest crime statistics. &ldquo;2016 saw the fewest shootings, the fewest robberies, the fewest burglaries, the fewest auto-thefts of any first-half of a year in a CompStat era. So, when you think about that, the lives of everyday New Yorkers are freer. They&rsquo;re more peaceful. They&rsquo;re less disrupted. And people have every reason to feel safer.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, there are some striking numbers that are less often heard during the mayor&rsquo;s crime briefings, which have lately had a celebratory tone, like the city&rsquo;s rising number of reported rapes, increasing reports of misdemeanor sexual assaults, and decline in the percentage of reported rapes that result in arrest.</p> <p dir="ltr">While violent crimes like murder and shootings are largely declining in New York City, reports of another type of violent crime, rape, have increased over the past two years. Through the middle of August, according to NYPD statistics, there have been 717 shooting victims in the city, a 15.5 percent drop from the same point last year, and<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank"> 931 reported rapes</a>, a 7.4 percent increase from 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many in New York City are fixated on gun violence, and for good reason, but the consistent uptick in another violent act that can leave physical and psychological scars remains troubling and under-appreciated by many.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rape, like all other felonies in New York City, has declined since the NYPD began keeping track of such crimes using CompStat more than two decades ago, yet the recent increase in reported rapes demands attention. It is unclear if that attention is being given, since discussion of rape is largely missing from the mayoral-NYPD press conferences and data from the NYPD shows that the percentage of reported rapes resulting in arrest dropped 16 percent from 2009 to 2015 (from 71 to 55 percent), while the number of reported rapes has increased 19.3 percent during that same time.</p> <p dir="ltr">To celebrate the crime statistics for the first half of 2016, the NYPD created a six-page pamphlet, &ldquo;Half Year Crime Report,&rdquo; that indicates drops in murder, shootings, and overall arrests on the cover. Inside the handout, there are infographics about &ldquo;precision policing&rdquo; and &ldquo;gang takedowns,&rdquo; as well as a page labeled &ldquo;The Right Direction,&rdquo; showing downward arrows labeled &ldquo;murder,&rdquo; &ldquo;shootings,&rdquo; &ldquo;robbery,&rdquo; and &ldquo;burglary.&rdquo; There is no mention of the increase in reported rapes on that page or any of the others.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/NYPD_Right_Direction_graphic_no_rape.png" alt="NYPD Right Direction graphic no rape" width="500" height="250" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p dir="ltr">As of 2015, roughly half of reported rapes result in arrest, and even when arrests are made, charges are not always filed. Tracking the results of these reported rapes (prosecution, conviction, dismissal, etc.) is further obfuscated by the way in which both city and state authorities, from the NYPD and the District Attorneys to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, keep records of rapes.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reported rapes in the city declined between 2003 and 2009, dropping from 2,070 in 2003 to the city&rsquo;s all time low of 1,205 in 2009. The number of reported<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/seven_major_felony_offenses_2000_2015.pdf" target="_blank"> rapes steadily increased</a> in the three years that followed, with 1,373 in 2010; 1,420 in 2011; and 1,445 in 2012.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reported rapes dipped slightly for two years (1,378 in 2013 and 1,352 in 2014), before rising once again, to 1,438, in 2015. This year, 2016, is on track to have an even greater number of reported rapes: through mid-August, there were<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/" target="_blank"> 931 reported rapes</a>, up from 867 this time last year, putting the city on pace to have 1,544 reported rapes by the end of 2016 (about 100 more than last year).</p> <p dir="ltr">It is possible that the rising number of reported rapes is partially the result of more rapes being reported, rather than more rapes being committed, something which outgoing Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has dubbed the &ldquo;Cosby Effect,&rdquo; referring to Bill Cosby and the attention around all of his alleged victims coming forward, some after many years. Heightened awareness about sexual assault and improved social norms about reporting rape could be leading more victims, especially women, to come forward.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;With the rapes that were recorded in New York City this year, one out of four did not occur this year &ndash; and that&rsquo;s fairly consistent with what we see in prior years,&rdquo; Deputy Commissioner Dermot Shea<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> said</a> during a July press conference at which NYPD officials and Mayor de Blasio celebrated the half-year crime numbers. (At that press conference, Shea did note the increase in rape - &ldquo;up 7.3 percent,&rdquo; he said - but he did not discuss efforts to combat the uptick. At the August crime briefing for press Shea said &ldquo;rape was up&rdquo; and moved on.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 1,438 rapes reported in 2015, 235 occurred prior to that year, dating<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/analysis_and_planning/historical_nyc_crime_data.shtml" target="_blank"> as far back at 1975</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Police departments<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/02/bill-cosby-might-have-changed-the-way-police-investigate-rape/" target="_blank"> across the country are reporting a similar trend</a>, and the increase in reported rapes coincides with city and state efforts to encourage more victims of rape to come forward and report the crime.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the past two years, the NYPD has created new agreements with local colleges to encourage immediate reporting of sexual assault, worked with hospital emergency rooms to encourage reporting, and distributed 48,000 cards and flyers throughout the city explaining sexual violence and encouraging people to report crimes to the Special Victims Division. In 2014, the Metropolitan Transit Authority created an<a href="http://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/app/ask_sh" target="_blank"> online portal</a> for sexual misconduct complaints, where victims may attach a photo and make an anonymous report.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it would be logical to presume that if there&rsquo;s an increase in acquaintance rapes being reported, it might in fact be an increase in reporting, because there has been so much focus on this issue of non-stranger rape in the past few years, especially on college campuses,&rdquo; said Lisa Smith, former chief sex crimes prosecutor for the Brooklyn District Attorney&rsquo;s office and professor at Brooklyn Law School. &ldquo;I definitely think the publicity is encouraging women to report.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, there are likely far more rapes occurring in New York City than are reported, given that nationally only about 34 percent of rapes result in a police report,<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system" target="_blank"> according to the Department of Justice</a>, with less than 2 percent of those reports resulting in the rapist&rsquo;s incarceration. And while the city&rsquo;s efforts to encourage more victims to come forward are praiseworthy, they should coincide with an increase in the number of rape cases that actually result in some semblance of justice for the victim, and with efforts to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.</p> <p dir="ltr">For example, the NYPD could do more to let New Yorkers know where stranger rapes are occurring. Currently, CompStat 2.0 maps incidents of rape down to the nearest intersection, but does not distinguish which category of rape the crime falls under - stranger, acquaintance, or domestic. While the vast majority of rapes reported in the city are acquaintance or domestic (92 percent, according to<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> the NYPD</a>), rapes committed by strangers also rose from 2014 to 2015 (<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/nyregion/rape-by-strangers-new-york-city.html" target="_blank">117 to 166</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet, &ldquo;there is no easy way for a civilian to determine&rdquo; where stranger rapes are frequently occurring, as New York Times writer Ginia Bellafante<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/nyregion/rape-by-strangers-new-york-city.html" target="_blank"> pointed out</a>, such as in 2013, when a man raped four women in the span of a week, finding all of his victims along the B12 bus route between Crown Heights and Canarsie.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reports of misdemeanor sex crimes, including forcible touching, public lewdness, and unlawful surveillance, have also spiked in recent years, particularly on the subways, where reports of such crimes have increased by<a href="http://nypdnews.com/2016/06/chief-of-transit-joseph-foxs-statement-before-mta-nyct-committee/" target="_blank"> 56.7 percent</a> (431 crimes through May, 275 by the same time in 2015).</p> <p dir="ltr">By mid-August 2014, there were 1,595 reported misdemeanor sex crimes in New York City. By the same time in 2015, that number rose to 1,887. This year through mid-August, there have been 2,096 reported misdemeanor sex crimes, an<a href="https://compstat.nypdonline.org/2e5c3f4b-85c1-4635-83c6-22b27fe7c75c/view/89" target="_blank"> 11.1 percent increase</a> from last year. Again, this increase could be due in part to efforts to encourage victims to report sex offenses, rather than an increase in the number of sex offenses occurring.</p> <p>Ideally, more reports would lead to more arrests, more prosecutions, and more convictions - more justice for victims who are increasingly willing to put their faith in the system and go through with the onerous and emotionally taxing process of reporting the crime and all that follows. Data from the NYPD shows this is not the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/reported-table-sans-caption.png" alt="reported table sans caption" width="580" height="274" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" />*Arrest data provided by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information</p> <p dir="ltr">Even when arrests are made, charges are not necessarily filed. Best-selling memoirist Mary Karr recounted<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-crotchgrabber" target="_blank"> an instance of forcible touching</a> on the streets of Manhattan for The New Yorker earlier this August, culminating in the arrest of a man she dubbed &ldquo;the crotchgrabber.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Nobody ever called me to court, but the cops had cuffed him, dragged him out of the bus station, and booked him,&rdquo; Karr wrote. &ldquo;A woman should be able to count on follow-through from the justice system&mdash;they&rsquo;d eventually fail to charge him.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">The picture is incomplete without data on outcomes of these arrests and reports, yet the fact that only half of reported rapes result in arrest, and the number of arrests is declining while the number of reported rapes is increasing is cause for concern.</p> <p dir="ltr">Because of the way New York City&rsquo;s Police Department and District Attorney offices keep track of these crimes, it is nearly impossible to determine whether the city&rsquo;s efforts to encourage more rape victims to report crimes to the police are actually resulting in more justice for the victims, or, ultimately, more trauma, forcing victims relive the event multiple times while relaying their stories to the police, with nothing to show for it but a police report and wasted time.</p> <p dir="ltr">The NYPD does not keep track of prosecutions or convictions, while the District Attorney offices do not keep numbers of reports or arrests. This disconnect makes it difficult to link the number of reported rapes to the number of prosecutions and convictions that result from those reported rapes. Tracking the outcomes is further complicated by the fact that each of the five District Attorney offices may not maintain records in the same way.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, the State Division of Criminal Justice Services keeps more consistent records of arrests and dispositions across all five boroughs. Yet, data compiled by DCJS presents its own challenge: not only is DCJS unable to link the number of reported rapes to the number of rape arrests made (rather, its data on the outcomes of those arrests begin with the arrest, not with the report), the number of rapes the NYPD reports to DCJS (<a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/NYSCrimeReport2015-prelim.pdf" target="_blank">2,244 in 2015</a>) is far greater than the number of rapes the NYPD reports internally. This is because the NYPD must use the FBI&rsquo;s definition of rape when reporting the number of rapes that occurred in any given year to the state, which is broader than the NYPD&rsquo;s definition.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Rape is a crime of opportunity, so it&rsquo;s a bit harder to prevent,&rdquo; NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Lieutenant John Grimpel told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. &ldquo;Once we are made aware of a crime, we investigate all rapes the same. If a violent crime happened to you, we want you to come forward.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Those who commit sexual violence are<a href="https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system" target="_blank"> less likely to go to jail or prison</a> than other criminals, like those who commit robbery or assault. The vast majority of reported rapes in New York City are committed by someone the victim knows, yet, as NYPD Deputy Commissioner Shea<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/607-16/transcript-mayor-bill-de-blasio-police-commissioner-william-bratton-hold-media-availability-to" target="_blank"> said</a> in July, &ldquo;the unique nature of these cases at times makes it difficult as we move through the criminal justice system.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While stranger rapes constitute a small percent of the city&rsquo;s reported rapes, they typically command greater police and media attention, and &ldquo;there is very good evidence that those cases end up in prosecution or conviction most of the time,&rdquo; said Smith, formerly of the Brooklyn DA office, now at Brooklyn Law School.</p> <p dir="ltr">Getting justice for the victims of domestic or acquaintance rape is generally a murkier process, though in the past few years, stories of acquaintance rape - from Bill Cosby to college campuses - have begun to be taken more seriously.</p> <p dir="ltr">Governor Andrew Cuomo has put some focus on college campus sexual assault in New York, signing legislation requiring all colleges and universities to <a href="https://www.ny.gov/programs/enough-enough-combating-sexual-assault-college-campuses" target="_blank">adopt new measures</a> to prevent and respond to rape in July 2015. In New York City, the Manhattan District Attorney&rsquo;s Sex Crimes Unit regularly conducts <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6092-to-combat-increase-in-reported-rapes-experts-point-to-prevention" target="_blank">trainings</a> for representatives from local colleges and universities to help individuals better identify and encourage reporting of sexual assault. DA Cy Vance has also dedicated money from his office&rsquo;s settlements to <a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-awards-38-million-grants-help-32-jurisdictions-20-states-test-" target="_blank">reducing the backlog of rape kits</a> across the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">Campus rape in New York City made widespread headlines in 2014 when then-Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz began carrying a mattress around campus to protest the fact that her accused rapist remained on campus. Across the country, shockingly light sentences handed down to convicted rapists in cases of acquaintance rape on college campuses have garnered national attention in recent months. Brock Turner, the Stanford student<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/10/university-of-colorado-sexual-assault-austin-wilkerson" target="_blank"> convicted of three counts of sexual assault</a>, was sentenced to six months in jail in June (he faced a maximum of 14 years in state prison). On August 10, a judge ruled that Austin Wilkerson, a University of Colorado student convicted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/austin-wilkerson-boulder-rape-prison_us_57abb86ce4b06e52746f3b22" target="_blank"> will not have to serve a prison sentence</a>, and instead sentenced him to two years work-release and 20 years probation.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If more than a quarter of people in this community were killed by a drunk driver, or assaulted or menaced during an invasion of their home, the community would call for a stronger message than a sentence of probation with no punitive sanction to effectuate respect for the law, the deterrence of crime, and the protection of the public,&rdquo; District Attorney Stanley Garnett<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/austin-wilkerson-boulder-rape-prison_us_57abb86ce4b06e52746f3b22" target="_blank"> wrote</a> in a victim memo to the court.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Sexual assault should be no different. Murderers go to prison. Armed robbers go to prison. Rapists go to prison. This is what justice requires,&rdquo; Garnett wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ultimately, the city should also invest more in efforts to prevent sexually violent crimes from happening in the first place. In order to truly reduce the number of sexual assaults that take place, advocates and the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention alike say &ldquo;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank">primary prevention</a>&rdquo; or prevention education is the most effective method.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So much of prevention for non-stranger rapes has to do with educating young people about consent in middle school and in high school,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;There are many different institutions that need to get involved in that, and law enforcement is only one spoke on that wheel.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, California became the first state in the nation to<a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-me-pc-brown-high-school-sexual-assaults-20151001-story.html" target="_blank"> mandate lessons on sexual violence prevention</a> and affirmative consent in high schools. Yet in New York City, educational programs &ldquo;shown to prevent sexual violence perpetration,&rdquo; according to the CDC, are<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6092-to-combat-increase-in-reported-rapes-experts-point-to-prevention" target="_blank"> not mandated</a>, but rather, are left up to the discretion of the principal in middle and high schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">The de Blasio administration and the City Council have demonstrated willingness to fund programs to prevent violence and protect New Yorkers time and again, from<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/401-14/de-blasio-administration-city-council-expand-citywide-initiative-reduce-gun-violence-launch/#/0" target="_blank"> investing $12.7 million</a> in gun violence prevention programs in 2014 to allocating<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/069-16/mayor-bill-de-blasio-2015-was-officially-safest-year-ever-new-york-city-streets#/0" target="_blank"> $115 million in new capital funds</a> earlier this year to expand the city&rsquo;s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judging by the numbers, the city&rsquo;s efforts seem to be working. Shooting victims are down<a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs-en-us-city.pdf" target="_blank"> 15.6 percent</a> over the past two years. There were 231 traffic fatalities in 2015, 66 fewer than in 2013, the year before Vision Zero began. There were more reported rapes in the first three months of 2016 alone, 310, than traffic fatalities in all of 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously, we are deeply concerned about the safety of the women in this city, and again, we don&rsquo;t like some of these trends we see and we want to combat them,&rdquo; Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/073-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-project-fast-track-ensure-shooters-quickly" target="_blank">said</a> in response to a question about the rising rape numbers during a January 12 press conference. &ldquo;We take this very, very seriously and it&rsquo;s our responsibility, period.&rdquo;</p> <p>The mayor&rsquo;s office declined to comment further for this story, deferring to the NYPD.</p> <p>

***
by Meg O'Connor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
To Combat Increase in Reported Rapes, Experts Point to Prevention 2016-01-15T05:13:31+00:00 2016-01-15T05:13:31+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6092:to-combat-increase-in-reported-rapes-experts-point-to-prevention Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cumbo_presser.jpg" alt="cumbo presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">City Coucil Member Laurie Cumbo leads a press conference (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Reported rapes are on the rise in New York City. Despite an overall downward trend in felony crime, 2015 saw a 6.3 percent increase in the number of rapes reported, up to 1,439 from 1,354. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/042-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-affordable-housing-plan-has-financed-40-000-apartments-so" target="_blank"> others</a> have attributed this increase to the “<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/cosby-effect-bratton-victims-reporting-rapes-article-1.2485999" target="_blank">Cosby effect</a>,” meaning more women are coming forward to report rapes, including from years before, rather than more rape actually being committed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the early days of 2016, <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/1157502aebf9472f9a27e8e9f303d021/more-protections-urged-after-recent-sex-assaults-nyc-cabs" target="_blank">three</a> reported incidents of rape - all stranger rapes - have garnered attention: two allegedly committed by for-hire vehicle drivers and the horrific alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old in a Brownsville playground. Most rapes are not widely reported in the media - most are committed by someone the victim knows.</p> <p dir="ltr">Both the increase in rapes reported in 2015 and the Brownsville incident have made rape more central to public policy conversation.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the city has implemented a number of measures in recent years to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, the question remains, what can elected and appointed officials do to help prevent these crimes from happening in the first place?</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 1,439 reported rapes last year, 166 were committed by strangers (up from 117 in 2014), and 14 took place in for-hire vehicles like taxis and Ubers (up from 10 in<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/rise-in-sexual-assaults-reported-by-taxi-passengers-1452476904" target="_blank"> 2014</a>). Speaking about this increase on<a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank"> WNYC radio</a> last week, Bratton encouraged women going home late at night from bars or clubs by cab “to adopt the buddy system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That comment was met with widespread criticism, prompting a press conference outside City Hall on a frigid Monday morning, where City Council members and women’s rights advocates denounced the remark.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It should not be the sole responsibility of a woman to guarantee her safety,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues. Cumbo and others outside City Hall called on the NYPD to focus on preventing sexual violence and catching perpetrators, rather than telling women what they should do to avoid becoming a victim.</p> <p dir="ltr">It’s important that in response to rape, the police department is not “encouraging women to implement buddy systems, but rather saying ‘you have a right to be safe,’” chair of the Committee on Public Safety, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Three bills have been introduced in the City Council which aim to better protect women from sexual violence:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2271079&amp;GUID=9DE75879-A625-4931-9B28-726B26AF8D80&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro 762</a>, which would require all taxicabs, hail vehicles, liveries, black cars, and luxury limousines to have a panic button installed that would allow a passenger to send a distress signal to law enforcement. There is currently no upcoming hearing scheduled on the bill, which has ten sponsors and has not been moved on since it was introduced by Cumbo in April, 2015.</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2404406&amp;GUID=57139F2F-77CA-4BD2-A7CE-A7FCA90B65A0" target="_blank">Intro 869,</a> which would require the NYPD to add sex offenses to its crime status report. They would be listed in total and by type of sex offense separately. The bill has eight sponsors and does not seem to have an upcoming hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2404401&amp;GUID=115ECB17-D5D7-4497-8F18-685923A25157&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro 868</a>, which would require the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to create a plan that would allow the public to communicate digitally with emergency responders using the City's 911 system. The system would allow the public to send digital communications including text messages, videos, and photographs. The bill was discussed by the Committee on Public Safety and the Committee on Technology at a hearing Thursday morning. &nbsp;&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Those gathered outside City Hall on Monday demanded that these bills be passed, that the city allocate more resources to increase monitoring of high incident locations and improve access to rape crisis counselors and centers, and that the NYPD come out with a comprehensive strategy to address the rising number of sexual assaults.</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the NYPD informed Gotham Gazette that over the past two years, with support from the Mayor and the City Council, the NYPD has made several changes to better deal with sexual assault, including:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Increasing the size of NYPD special victims division, adding 30 investigators to make 240 total</li> <li dir="ltr">Creating a DNA Cold Case Squad, Bronx Child Abuse Squad, Analytic Squad, and increasing the Sex Offender Management Unit by seven investigators to total 20 officers</li> <li dir="ltr">Increasing specialized training for the special victims division from 5 to 10 days per year</li> <li dir="ltr">Increasing efforts to encourage reporting of sexual assaults, distributing 32,000 cards and 16,000 flyers in 2015 which explained sexual violence and encouraged people to call the special victims division</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Yet all of these legislative proposals or policy changes by the NYPD are designed to either stop a sexual assault from taking place once the threat of assault has already been made clear, or to help victims after they have been violated. In order to truly reduce the number of sexual assaults that take place, both advocates and the federal<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank"> Center for Disease Control and Prevention</a> say ‘primary prevention’ or prevention education is the most effective method.</p> <p dir="ltr">Primary prevention aims to stop sexual assault by focusing on potential perpetrators, rather than the victims, and can involve educating high school, middle school, or college-aged students. Prevention education raises awareness of sexual abuse and harassment, promotes positive social attitudes and a negative view of sexual violence and harassment, and promotes bystander intervention.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are not going to end sexual violence if we are not being preventative in our nature and engaging those who are committing the violence,” said Quentin Walcott, co-executive director of CONNECT. The organization works to end violence against women and girls by addressing “the root cause of violence” through “engaging men and boys to change the attitudes and belief systems” under which “men think that they’re entitled and privileged to treat women in a particular type of way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NYC, told Gotham Gazette that engaging “men and boys in the discussion of what is manhood, what are healthy relationships, and what does consent look like” through comprehensive sexual education in schools at a young age is “critically important” to reducing the number of sexual assaults that take place.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some may take issue with teaching sexual education and primary prevention to middle or high school students, but, as Council Member Gibson pointed out in an interview, “the bottom line is our children are going to learn about sex one way or another” and, she said, it is certainly preferable that children learn about sex through trained educators.</p> <p dir="ltr">The five individuals who are accused of gang raping an 18-year-old in Brownsville are between the ages of 14 and 17. One of the rape suspects, 15 years old, is<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/5-suspects-rape-brooklyn-playground-arrested-article-1.2494108" target="_blank"> about to be a father</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet educational efforts like the prevention programs “shown to prevent sexual violence perpetration,” according to the<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank"> CDC Injury Center</a>, are “not really standardized” in New York City schools, but rather are “up to the principle,” Min Um-Mandhyan, director of development and communications for the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city does have some preventative efforts in place, but those mainly involve bystander intervention training for adults. Ossorio says the city’s district attorneys “work with nightclubs to partner with them and have an open line of communication to reduce assaults that may happen.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson from the Manhattan DA’s office told Gotham Gazette that its Sex Crimes Unit regularly conducts trainings to help individuals better identify and encourage reporting of sexual assault through sessions in conjunction with the New York Nightlife Association, tailored toward workers like bouncers, managers, and bartenders, and through training with representatives from local colleges and universities. DA Vance also awarded $38 million to cities across the country last year to test a<a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-awards-38-million-grants-help-32-jurisdictions-20-states-test-" target="_blank"> backlog of rape kits</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Providing [prevention] education in the schools for age-appropriate levels is something…the city could hopefully provide some more funding for. We know that it is important in terms of prevention.” Jennifer Wyse, a social worker at Safe Horizon’s Community Program in Brooklyn, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked whether the City Council would like to see more primary prevention in schools, Gibson responded, “Absolutely,” and added that several Council members have put forth legislation on sexual education in schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We obviously need to have this conversation during the budget…we’re very supportive of any effort [to reduce sexual violence] because look at what’s happening in this case in Brownsville,” Gibson said, referring to the fact that the alleged perpetrators were teenagers. “Any way we can prevent these cases, we support.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State has really put more funding behind” primary prevention programs, Um-Mandhyan said. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is one of six Regional Centers for Sexual Violence Prevention in New York State that implement primary prevention and community-based strategies to decrease sexual violence. In April, 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-4-million-federal-grant-fight-sexual-violence-new-york-state" target="_blank"> announced</a> the allocation of $4 million in federal funding to the six regional centers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Unfortunately, New York City doesn’t really have a separate funding stream for rape crisis programs for sexual assault,” Um-Mandhyan said. “City Council is going to launch into budget season, so we’ll really be pushing for a funding stream.” Pointing to the disparity in access to rape crisis programs and resources for victims in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Um-Mandhyan said the Alliance would also like to see the city allocate more resources to underserved neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">At Monday’s press conference, Gibson called the increased number of sexual assaults a call to action. “We are in the midst of a new budget season, so we have a very unique opportunity. We must ensure that we not only talk about it but we ‘be about it.’ We must put money where our commitment is…We must be sure that we provide the resources and programs necessary.”</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked whether primary prevention education is something the City Council would consider implementing in New York City’s schools, Cumbo told Gotham Gazette that she hopes to pass a bill,<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2483814&amp;GUID=C4AD0D87-B3AB-4052-B272-7030D987507A&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank"> Intro 952</a>, at the next City Council stated meeting, which would require the Department of Education to report information regarding school compliance with state regulations governing comprehensive health education and sexual education for students in grades six through twelve.</p> <p dir="ltr">There was another bill introduced in the City Council, however, not mentioned at Monday’s press conference, which would require the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to develop a sexual assault prevention and response curriculum that would include training in affirmative consent for students, faculty, campus safety officers, and college administrators in New York City’s college campuses, as well as provide better information to students about available services for sexual assault victims.</p> <p dir="ltr">The bill,<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1946664&amp;GUID=8291C1BD-A4FE-4A83-97F3-6C865DB7F1B9&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank"> Intro 517</a>, was laid over by the Committee on Higher Education in February, 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">What advocates who work with sexual assault victims want to happen, Um-Mandhyan said, is “to see the city adopt sexual violence prevention education in public school curricula. It’s important to work with youth as prevention tends to work more effectively with younger people…We believe when you get to college level, it’s already too late.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo made has made campus sexual assault a significant focus, pushing New York colleges and universities to adopt new measures related to preventing and responding to rape.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bratton’s ‘buddy system’ comments were quick to elicit condemnation by City Council members, who called on him to come out with a comprehensive strategy from the NYPD to reduce sexual assaults.</p> <p dir="ltr">But with the CDC and organizations that work to help victims of sexual assault pointing to primary prevention as the single most effective method to reduce the number of assaults that occur, the responsibility for coming up with that “comprehensive strategy” to prevent and reduce sexual assault, including providing funding for primary prevention programs and legislation to implement them in schools, rests with city lawmakers, not the NYPD.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cumbo_presser.jpg" alt="cumbo presser" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">City Coucil Member Laurie Cumbo leads a press conference (photo: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Reported rapes are on the rise in New York City. Despite an overall downward trend in felony crime, 2015 saw a 6.3 percent increase in the number of rapes reported, up to 1,439 from 1,354. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/042-16/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-affordable-housing-plan-has-financed-40-000-apartments-so" target="_blank"> others</a> have attributed this increase to the “<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/cosby-effect-bratton-victims-reporting-rapes-article-1.2485999" target="_blank">Cosby effect</a>,” meaning more women are coming forward to report rapes, including from years before, rather than more rape actually being committed.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the early days of 2016, <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/1157502aebf9472f9a27e8e9f303d021/more-protections-urged-after-recent-sex-assaults-nyc-cabs" target="_blank">three</a> reported incidents of rape - all stranger rapes - have garnered attention: two allegedly committed by for-hire vehicle drivers and the horrific alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old in a Brownsville playground. Most rapes are not widely reported in the media - most are committed by someone the victim knows.</p> <p dir="ltr">Both the increase in rapes reported in 2015 and the Brownsville incident have made rape more central to public policy conversation.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the city has implemented a number of measures in recent years to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, the question remains, what can elected and appointed officials do to help prevent these crimes from happening in the first place?</p> <p dir="ltr">Of the 1,439 reported rapes last year, 166 were committed by strangers (up from 117 in 2014), and 14 took place in for-hire vehicles like taxis and Ubers (up from 10 in<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/rise-in-sexual-assaults-reported-by-taxi-passengers-1452476904" target="_blank"> 2014</a>). Speaking about this increase on<a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank"> WNYC radio</a> last week, Bratton encouraged women going home late at night from bars or clubs by cab “to adopt the buddy system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">That comment was met with widespread criticism, prompting a press conference outside City Hall on a frigid Monday morning, where City Council members and women’s rights advocates denounced the remark.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It should not be the sole responsibility of a woman to guarantee her safety,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo, chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues. Cumbo and others outside City Hall called on the NYPD to focus on preventing sexual violence and catching perpetrators, rather than telling women what they should do to avoid becoming a victim.</p> <p dir="ltr">It’s important that in response to rape, the police department is not “encouraging women to implement buddy systems, but rather saying ‘you have a right to be safe,’” chair of the Committee on Public Safety, City Council Member Vanessa Gibson added.</p> <p dir="ltr">Three bills have been introduced in the City Council which aim to better protect women from sexual violence:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2271079&amp;GUID=9DE75879-A625-4931-9B28-726B26AF8D80&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro 762</a>, which would require all taxicabs, hail vehicles, liveries, black cars, and luxury limousines to have a panic button installed that would allow a passenger to send a distress signal to law enforcement. There is currently no upcoming hearing scheduled on the bill, which has ten sponsors and has not been moved on since it was introduced by Cumbo in April, 2015.</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2404406&amp;GUID=57139F2F-77CA-4BD2-A7CE-A7FCA90B65A0" target="_blank">Intro 869,</a> which would require the NYPD to add sex offenses to its crime status report. They would be listed in total and by type of sex offense separately. The bill has eight sponsors and does not seem to have an upcoming hearing.</li> <li dir="ltr"><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2404401&amp;GUID=115ECB17-D5D7-4497-8F18-685923A25157&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank">Intro 868</a>, which would require the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to create a plan that would allow the public to communicate digitally with emergency responders using the City's 911 system. The system would allow the public to send digital communications including text messages, videos, and photographs. The bill was discussed by the Committee on Public Safety and the Committee on Technology at a hearing Thursday morning. &nbsp;&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Those gathered outside City Hall on Monday demanded that these bills be passed, that the city allocate more resources to increase monitoring of high incident locations and improve access to rape crisis counselors and centers, and that the NYPD come out with a comprehensive strategy to address the rising number of sexual assaults.</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson for the NYPD informed Gotham Gazette that over the past two years, with support from the Mayor and the City Council, the NYPD has made several changes to better deal with sexual assault, including:</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr">Increasing the size of NYPD special victims division, adding 30 investigators to make 240 total</li> <li dir="ltr">Creating a DNA Cold Case Squad, Bronx Child Abuse Squad, Analytic Squad, and increasing the Sex Offender Management Unit by seven investigators to total 20 officers</li> <li dir="ltr">Increasing specialized training for the special victims division from 5 to 10 days per year</li> <li dir="ltr">Increasing efforts to encourage reporting of sexual assaults, distributing 32,000 cards and 16,000 flyers in 2015 which explained sexual violence and encouraged people to call the special victims division</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">Yet all of these legislative proposals or policy changes by the NYPD are designed to either stop a sexual assault from taking place once the threat of assault has already been made clear, or to help victims after they have been violated. In order to truly reduce the number of sexual assaults that take place, both advocates and the federal<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank"> Center for Disease Control and Prevention</a> say ‘primary prevention’ or prevention education is the most effective method.</p> <p dir="ltr">Primary prevention aims to stop sexual assault by focusing on potential perpetrators, rather than the victims, and can involve educating high school, middle school, or college-aged students. Prevention education raises awareness of sexual abuse and harassment, promotes positive social attitudes and a negative view of sexual violence and harassment, and promotes bystander intervention.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are not going to end sexual violence if we are not being preventative in our nature and engaging those who are committing the violence,” said Quentin Walcott, co-executive director of CONNECT. The organization works to end violence against women and girls by addressing “the root cause of violence” through “engaging men and boys to change the attitudes and belief systems” under which “men think that they’re entitled and privileged to treat women in a particular type of way.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NYC, told Gotham Gazette that engaging “men and boys in the discussion of what is manhood, what are healthy relationships, and what does consent look like” through comprehensive sexual education in schools at a young age is “critically important” to reducing the number of sexual assaults that take place.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some may take issue with teaching sexual education and primary prevention to middle or high school students, but, as Council Member Gibson pointed out in an interview, “the bottom line is our children are going to learn about sex one way or another” and, she said, it is certainly preferable that children learn about sex through trained educators.</p> <p dir="ltr">The five individuals who are accused of gang raping an 18-year-old in Brownsville are between the ages of 14 and 17. One of the rape suspects, 15 years old, is<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/5-suspects-rape-brooklyn-playground-arrested-article-1.2494108" target="_blank"> about to be a father</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Yet educational efforts like the prevention programs “shown to prevent sexual violence perpetration,” according to the<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html" target="_blank"> CDC Injury Center</a>, are “not really standardized” in New York City schools, but rather are “up to the principle,” Min Um-Mandhyan, director of development and communications for the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city does have some preventative efforts in place, but those mainly involve bystander intervention training for adults. Ossorio says the city’s district attorneys “work with nightclubs to partner with them and have an open line of communication to reduce assaults that may happen.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A spokesperson from the Manhattan DA’s office told Gotham Gazette that its Sex Crimes Unit regularly conducts trainings to help individuals better identify and encourage reporting of sexual assault through sessions in conjunction with the New York Nightlife Association, tailored toward workers like bouncers, managers, and bartenders, and through training with representatives from local colleges and universities. DA Vance also awarded $38 million to cities across the country last year to test a<a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-awards-38-million-grants-help-32-jurisdictions-20-states-test-" target="_blank"> backlog of rape kits</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Providing [prevention] education in the schools for age-appropriate levels is something…the city could hopefully provide some more funding for. We know that it is important in terms of prevention.” Jennifer Wyse, a social worker at Safe Horizon’s Community Program in Brooklyn, told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked whether the City Council would like to see more primary prevention in schools, Gibson responded, “Absolutely,” and added that several Council members have put forth legislation on sexual education in schools.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We obviously need to have this conversation during the budget…we’re very supportive of any effort [to reduce sexual violence] because look at what’s happening in this case in Brownsville,” Gibson said, referring to the fact that the alleged perpetrators were teenagers. “Any way we can prevent these cases, we support.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“New York State has really put more funding behind” primary prevention programs, Um-Mandhyan said. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is one of six Regional Centers for Sexual Violence Prevention in New York State that implement primary prevention and community-based strategies to decrease sexual violence. In April, 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-4-million-federal-grant-fight-sexual-violence-new-york-state" target="_blank"> announced</a> the allocation of $4 million in federal funding to the six regional centers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Unfortunately, New York City doesn’t really have a separate funding stream for rape crisis programs for sexual assault,” Um-Mandhyan said. “City Council is going to launch into budget season, so we’ll really be pushing for a funding stream.” Pointing to the disparity in access to rape crisis programs and resources for victims in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Um-Mandhyan said the Alliance would also like to see the city allocate more resources to underserved neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">At Monday’s press conference, Gibson called the increased number of sexual assaults a call to action. “We are in the midst of a new budget season, so we have a very unique opportunity. We must ensure that we not only talk about it but we ‘be about it.’ We must put money where our commitment is…We must be sure that we provide the resources and programs necessary.”</p> <p dir="ltr">When asked whether primary prevention education is something the City Council would consider implementing in New York City’s schools, Cumbo told Gotham Gazette that she hopes to pass a bill,<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2483814&amp;GUID=C4AD0D87-B3AB-4052-B272-7030D987507A&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank"> Intro 952</a>, at the next City Council stated meeting, which would require the Department of Education to report information regarding school compliance with state regulations governing comprehensive health education and sexual education for students in grades six through twelve.</p> <p dir="ltr">There was another bill introduced in the City Council, however, not mentioned at Monday’s press conference, which would require the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene to develop a sexual assault prevention and response curriculum that would include training in affirmative consent for students, faculty, campus safety officers, and college administrators in New York City’s college campuses, as well as provide better information to students about available services for sexual assault victims.</p> <p dir="ltr">The bill,<a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1946664&amp;GUID=8291C1BD-A4FE-4A83-97F3-6C865DB7F1B9&amp;FullText=1" target="_blank"> Intro 517</a>, was laid over by the Committee on Higher Education in February, 2015.</p> <p dir="ltr">What advocates who work with sexual assault victims want to happen, Um-Mandhyan said, is “to see the city adopt sexual violence prevention education in public school curricula. It’s important to work with youth as prevention tends to work more effectively with younger people…We believe when you get to college level, it’s already too late.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo made has made campus sexual assault a significant focus, pushing New York colleges and universities to adopt new measures related to preventing and responding to rape.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bratton’s ‘buddy system’ comments were quick to elicit condemnation by City Council members, who called on him to come out with a comprehensive strategy from the NYPD to reduce sexual assaults.</p> <p dir="ltr">But with the CDC and organizations that work to help victims of sexual assault pointing to primary prevention as the single most effective method to reduce the number of assaults that occur, the responsibility for coming up with that “comprehensive strategy” to prevent and reduce sexual assault, including providing funding for primary prevention programs and legislation to implement them in schools, rests with city lawmakers, not the NYPD.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Meg O’Connor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/megoconnor13" target="_blank">@MegOConnor13</a></p> Sexual Assault Becomes Focus of Public Discussion 2016-01-11T03:52:47+00:00 2016-01-11T03:52:47+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6079:sexual-assault-becomes-focus-of-public-discussion Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cumbo.jpg" alt="cumbo" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Cumbo (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Even before a horrific rape incident became the focus of news reports and statements from elected officials over the weekend, lawmakers and advocates planned to rally Monday morning at City Hall to call for new measures to protect women from violent assault.</p> <p>While major felonies dropped overall in New York City in 2015, there were more rapes reported than the year before. There have also been alarming reports of rape connected to women riding in cabs and other for-hire vehicles. In discussing crime data <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank">on WNYC radio</a>, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Tuesday of last week that there had been an increase in assaults on women taking cabs late at night and that women should use "the buddy system."</p> <p>Bratton's statement was met with quick criticism, including by some who said he was victim-blaming. City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who chairs the Council's women's issues committee, renewed calls for legislation and additional resources toward preventing rape and other violence against women. Cumbo, who previously sponsored a bill calling for a "panic button" in all cabs and for-hire vehicles, will lead the rally Monday morning to push her bill and call for other measures.</p> <p>There were 1,439 rapes reported in New York City last year, a six percent increase from the year before, when 1,354 were reported in 2014. Meanwhile, the NYPD said that 14 of the 166 rapes committed by a stranger to the victim were committed in incidents related to taxi or other for-hire vehicle rides.</p> <p>Over the weekend, reports surfaced of an incident that had occurred Thursday evening in Brownsville, where five young men are alleged to have gang-raped a young woman at gunpoint, after having threatened her father and instructing him to leave.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was among several elected officials who released statements Sunday expressing outrage over the incident. The mayor promised to pursue the perpetrators of the rape and that his administration will "work to ensure a crime of this nature never happens again."</p> <p>Council Member Cumbo released a statement pointing to the increase in rape and calling for action. She also connected the incident to Bratton's 'buddy system' comment, calling the remarks "an insult to women."</p> <p>"I am outraged and every single New Yorker regardless of race, religion, or gender should be outraged by what has happened not only to this young woman - but to all of us, because right now women in New York City are more vulnerable than ever," Cumbo wrote. "To add insult to injury, NYPD Commissioner Bratton's response to the escalation of violence against women in cabs was for women to utilize the 'Buddy System.'</p> <p>"If a father cannot protect his own daughter in this day and age then it is obvious that the so called "buddy system" is sexist, antiquated and an insult to women throughout New York City," Cumbo continued. "We do not need a buddy system. Every woman in New York City has the right to feel safe and protected at all times within the greatest City in the world. What we need is a strategy, resources, manpower, enforcement and a plan to keep every single woman in the City of New York safe."</p> <p>There have been <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/nyregion/parents-said-to-turn-in-2-teenagers-suspected-in-brooklyn-rape.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">questions raised</a> about the speed with which the father of the Brownsville victim was able to locate help and with which the NYPD responded and notified the public. The NYPD released <a href="http://nypdnews.com/2016/01/statement-regarding-rape-within-confines-of-73-precinct/" target="_blank">a statement</a> to the press Sunday evening saying there had been "no delay in responding to the rape in the 73 Precinct." By Sunday evening, four male suspects were in custody, according to the NYPD.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a longtime member of the NYPD, said in a statement that he was "sickened" by the reports of the Brownsville rape and said, "I do not accept a city where reports of rape and sexual assault are on the rise. We must be proactively aggressive to keep women safe, including better lighting and design of public spaces like Osborn Playground," where the Thursday incident occurred.</p> <p>Cumbo's bill, introduced in April, "would require all taxicabs, hail vehicles, liveries, black cars, and luxury limousines to have a panic button installed that would allow a passenger to send a distress signal to law enforcement," according to her office.</p> <p>The rally set for City Hall at 10 a.m. Monday will command additional attention given what occurred in Brownsville on Thursday. It is unclear what other public policy ralliers may call for other than passage of Cumbo's bill, which currently has ten sponsors in the 51-member City Council. Additional lighting in parks and funding of groups that work to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault may be part the discussion.</p> <p>A notice from Cumbo's office said that participating organizations would include National Organization for Women of New York City, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Committee for Taxi Safety Advocates, and CONNECT, an organization working to end domestic violence.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/cumbo.jpg" alt="cumbo" height="400" width="600" /></p> <p>Council Member Cumbo (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Even before a horrific rape incident became the focus of news reports and statements from elected officials over the weekend, lawmakers and advocates planned to rally Monday morning at City Hall to call for new measures to protect women from violent assault.</p> <p>While major felonies dropped overall in New York City in 2015, there were more rapes reported than the year before. There have also been alarming reports of rape connected to women riding in cabs and other for-hire vehicles. In discussing crime data <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/commissioner-bratton/" target="_blank">on WNYC radio</a>, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Tuesday of last week that there had been an increase in assaults on women taking cabs late at night and that women should use "the buddy system."</p> <p>Bratton's statement was met with quick criticism, including by some who said he was victim-blaming. City Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who chairs the Council's women's issues committee, renewed calls for legislation and additional resources toward preventing rape and other violence against women. Cumbo, who previously sponsored a bill calling for a "panic button" in all cabs and for-hire vehicles, will lead the rally Monday morning to push her bill and call for other measures.</p> <p>There were 1,439 rapes reported in New York City last year, a six percent increase from the year before, when 1,354 were reported in 2014. Meanwhile, the NYPD said that 14 of the 166 rapes committed by a stranger to the victim were committed in incidents related to taxi or other for-hire vehicle rides.</p> <p>Over the weekend, reports surfaced of an incident that had occurred Thursday evening in Brownsville, where five young men are alleged to have gang-raped a young woman at gunpoint, after having threatened her father and instructing him to leave.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio was among several elected officials who released statements Sunday expressing outrage over the incident. The mayor promised to pursue the perpetrators of the rape and that his administration will "work to ensure a crime of this nature never happens again."</p> <p>Council Member Cumbo released a statement pointing to the increase in rape and calling for action. She also connected the incident to Bratton's 'buddy system' comment, calling the remarks "an insult to women."</p> <p>"I am outraged and every single New Yorker regardless of race, religion, or gender should be outraged by what has happened not only to this young woman - but to all of us, because right now women in New York City are more vulnerable than ever," Cumbo wrote. "To add insult to injury, NYPD Commissioner Bratton's response to the escalation of violence against women in cabs was for women to utilize the 'Buddy System.'</p> <p>"If a father cannot protect his own daughter in this day and age then it is obvious that the so called "buddy system" is sexist, antiquated and an insult to women throughout New York City," Cumbo continued. "We do not need a buddy system. Every woman in New York City has the right to feel safe and protected at all times within the greatest City in the world. What we need is a strategy, resources, manpower, enforcement and a plan to keep every single woman in the City of New York safe."</p> <p>There have been <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/nyregion/parents-said-to-turn-in-2-teenagers-suspected-in-brooklyn-rape.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">questions raised</a> about the speed with which the father of the Brownsville victim was able to locate help and with which the NYPD responded and notified the public. The NYPD released <a href="http://nypdnews.com/2016/01/statement-regarding-rape-within-confines-of-73-precinct/" target="_blank">a statement</a> to the press Sunday evening saying there had been "no delay in responding to the rape in the 73 Precinct." By Sunday evening, four male suspects were in custody, according to the NYPD.</p> <p>Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a longtime member of the NYPD, said in a statement that he was "sickened" by the reports of the Brownsville rape and said, "I do not accept a city where reports of rape and sexual assault are on the rise. We must be proactively aggressive to keep women safe, including better lighting and design of public spaces like Osborn Playground," where the Thursday incident occurred.</p> <p>Cumbo's bill, introduced in April, "would require all taxicabs, hail vehicles, liveries, black cars, and luxury limousines to have a panic button installed that would allow a passenger to send a distress signal to law enforcement," according to her office.</p> <p>The rally set for City Hall at 10 a.m. Monday will command additional attention given what occurred in Brownsville on Thursday. It is unclear what other public policy ralliers may call for other than passage of Cumbo's bill, which currently has ten sponsors in the 51-member City Council. Additional lighting in parks and funding of groups that work to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault may be part the discussion.</p> <p>A notice from Cumbo's office said that participating organizations would include National Organization for Women of New York City, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Committee for Taxi Safety Advocates, and CONNECT, an organization working to end domestic violence.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p>