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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Human Rights Watch allegations unfair

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The focal point of the Human Rights Watch organization in strongly criticizing the Metropolitan Police Department's alleged failure to adequately investigate sexual assault cases is disconcerting ("Rights group faults police on rape cases," Web, Thursday). Those ready to quickly jump on the report's bandwagon should not do so without first asking some serious and hard questions, such as why this group decided to hone in on the police department in the nation's capital and what political motivations are likely behind their seemingly well-meaning endeavor.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is one of the most victim-oriented and victim-focused police chiefs in the country, and she has been continuously responsive to crime victims and their families. It is not unusual for Chief Lanier to reach out personally to a victim or a victim's family. With such a mindset, Chief Lanier undoubtedly has emphasized throughout all ranks of her organization the importance of professionalism and responsiveness to victims of all types of crime -- and that includes sexual assault cases.

There are some situations in which a reported sexual assault may not have occurred and, consequently, the alleged victim is not always a bona fide victim. There are those who may fabricate a story for their own benefit, may have been too intoxicated to recall the situation accurately or may have consented to sex and later turned against the other party and cried rape. When circumstances and stories are shaky and no evidence exists to merit going forward with prosecution, it is not unusual for alleged victims to accuse detectives of mistreating them or not taking them seriously.

Sexual assault is a serious crime and one that has tremendous and enduring impact on its genuine victims. Chief Lanier's overall reaction to the Human Rights Watch report should be one of understandable indignation. For a chief of her caliber and her commendable level of victim-oriented sensitivity to have her department slammed with these accusations is outrageous.


Adjunct professor of victimology

Marymount University


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