A Grim Reality of Sexual Assault in City Heights and (lack of) Police Accountability
By Cathy Mendonca, Af3irm San Diego and UAPTSD.org
Since the recent assaults in North Park, community members, residents, as well as activists have sparked a new take back the night movement to promote safety, awareness and to also empower residents to feel safe.
Locals March Against Violence in North Park
As a former SART team advocate, DV counselor and survivor myself, raising the issue of any assault on anyone is important, but what the community of North Park may not realize, that demand for an end to sexual assaults in North Park, also called a demand (by many) for an increase in law enforcement officers, which to me is has been proven, not the solution, and in fact could lead to more harm.
In a KPBS Article “Another Assault Reported In North Park Despite SDPD’s Increased Presence” published on Friday, August 29, 2014, Tarryn Mento writes
“Despite an uptick in officers on North Park’s streets, a sixth attack in the area was reported Thursday night just hours after a police-hosted event….The community event brought San Diego officers and community members together at Oregon Street and Howard Avenue to walk neighborhood streets earlier that afternoon. At the time, North Park resident Celeste Martinez said the event brought her some relief since the attacks started in June.’”
After hearing about a “suspect” arrested and taken into custody, I was disheartened to see they look nothing like the composite given by one of the victims. (first photo: A flyer on a pole warns the public of a man under suspicion of attacking women in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, Aug. 28, 2014.)
Actual suspect arrested. (second photo)
Man Arrested in North Park Attacks
San Diego man arrested, accused of attacks on women in North Park.
By R. Stickney, Elena Gomez and Paul Krueger
A San Diego man has been arrested in connection with a series of attacks on women in the North Park and City Heights areas. David Angelo Drake, 23, of San Diego, was booked Tuesday on six counts of assault with a deadly weapon, six counts of assault with the intent to commit sexual assault, five counts of battery and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object.
While it was reported that a light-skinned male being an attacker, a 23 year old Black man was arrested. Is he an actual suspect, or is this an excuse to arrest a black man in a predominately white-upper class area? Is this yet another example of racial profiling?
An article posted on Addicting Info on OCTOBER 1 by AUTHOR JAMESON PARKER,The New York Police Department reportedly told a group of black teenagers that they were not welcome to walk through a predominantly white neighborhood unless they could prove that they were being productive members of society.
“According to one witness, a group of five or six 16 year olds was ordered to leave the area of Park Slope immediately because the officer assumed they were up to no good. His evidence? They were walking down the sidewalk and not apparently heading to the basketball court. No crime had been witnessed, no report called in. Just kids walking in the “wrong place.”
Meanwhile in #CityHeights there have been almost 4 times the number of sex crimes reported within 60 days, in an area that’s already heavily policed for victimless crimes. -yet we never hear about issues involving women in neighborgoods predominantly black, brown and yellow, only a couple of miles away down the street.
After crunching the numbers of rape and other sex crimes in City Heights, (info via San Diego Police Crime Mapping). there have been 23 reported incidents, these documented incidents are within a 2 mile radius of Fairmount & University Ave WHERE A POLICE STATION IS LOCATED & and only from 7/9/14 to present (approx. 60 days of records)
Even while lower income, prominently neighborhoods of color are still heavily affected by sexual assault, at a rate higher than predominantly upper class and-in North Parks’s case -gentrified neighborhoods, are still never mentioned in media, yet remain heavily policed for victimless crimes such as truancy and curfew, And in many curfew sweeps, young women and girls (a vulnerable demographic to be assaulted in any area) are picked up and made to take classes on how not to be trafficked, since San Diego’s one of the top 13 cities for child trafficking. Although this measure to combat this particular sex crime is in City Heights, the rate of trafficking of persons is still high the same crime mapping data collected on the area which could reflect .
They talked about Star/Pal, located near Colina Park in City Heights which is a non-profit organization run by San Diego police and probation officers who run the diversion program,GirlE. They state this diversion program “gives at-risk girls an alternative to facing a judge. Officers teach the girls how to stay safe by making positive life choices, including setting college and career goals, having healthy relationships, and building their self-esteem.”
This is not only victim blaming and shaming, but it’s incorrect information on what exactly trafficking entails as far as “choice”
The truth, from “MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN”
One dangerous misconception; Teens choose to get involved in prostitution (which appears to be practiced through “Officers teaching the girls to make positive life choices”)
The truth: Young people, boys and girls, are manipulated, forced, and coerced into prostitution everyday. Pimps hangout where young people congregate: malls, movie theaters, restaurants, parks, schools, bus stations, etc. They befriend them and then lure them into prostitution.”
City Heights, where these curfew sweeps occur, is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the nation. About 54 percent of the population is Hispanic/Latino, 16 percent is Asian (Vietnamese account for 9.9 percent of the population), and 16 percent are African or African American with more than 70 percent of the households having limited English proficiency (according to American Community Survey statistics). It also has been reported, most diversion “classes” in order for youth to avoid imprisonment (for a victimless crime which violates their amendment rights) costs money, while almost half the 26,200 households in City Heights have incomes of under $35,000, and the families are larger and more likely to be single parent households. Also, parents/guardians are not informed of these sweeps or what the exceptions or rights of youth have. Police do not publicly post when these sweeps occur, so if it is law enforcement’s intent is to protect youth and prevent crime, the public would in fact be notified appropriately.
Police do not and DID NOT prevent that crime’s which occurred in the North Park case. Their duty is to respond to a sex crime already committed, evaluate if there’s enough to move forward with an official report and SART exam, all while determining if the crime has indeed occurred. From my experience, when police respond to (specifically) sexual assaults, when protocol is to determine whether or not a crime has occurred, many seemed as if the investigation appeared to be a waste of THEIR time, or the victim who reported, may not be telling the truth. The (in)justice system, also reflects this same attitude towards victims of assault.
In a study of the factors that influence a prosecutor’s decision to charge in a sexual assault case, according to the National Center for Women and Policing in 2001, researchers validated what many experienced investigators already know – that charging decisions are primarily if not exclusively determined by the victim’s perceived character and her behavior at the time of the assault. Results of this study revealed that: Prosecutors were over 5 times more likely to file charges if there were no questions about the victim’s moral character.They were also nearly 2.5 times more likely to charge if the victim did not engage in any risky behavior at the time of the assault. Finally, prosecutors were almost 4 times as likely to file charges if the victim reported her sexual assault to police within one hour.
Clearly, prosecutors – like other members of the criminal justice system and the rest of society – base their judgments of sexual assault victims and cases on the stereotypes of “real rape.” In other words, the judgment of a rape case rests on the victim rather than the offender, based on her background and reputation, her relationship to the accused, and her behavior at the time of the incident.
To put a racial lens on this shaming, I also would like to share in an excellent article published by Jezebel written by Brooklyn freelance writer and film producer Kali Holloway titled “ When You’re a Black Woman, You’re Never Good Enough to Be a Victim” as she addresses violence against black bodies perpetrated by a law enforcement officer as well as society’s victim shaming.
“…how almost none of his alleged black victims reported him, convinced no one would believe them. Or care. (Holtzclaw’s role as a police officer obviously intensified to this fear.) In their stories, I recognized the shared sense, or more accurately, awareness, that although black women can be victimized — are more likely than their white peers to be victimized, in fact — we are rarely acknowledged as victims. Rape culture forces all women to prove they don’t provoke sexual violence; the hypersexualization of black women pretends their very nature invites it. With the awareness of this image comes the often infuriating need to, consciously and just as often unconsciously, navigate the world with it as a guide.”
“There’s a parallel with rape here, and the way women are asked to prove themselves worthy of being recognized as victims. ..In the topsy turvy logic of rape culture, rape and sexual violence are the responsibility of women who are too many things — too sexual, too immodest, too careless with themselves. For black women who are raped, misogyny and racism often conspire to make victim an unattainable status.”
“Against this backdrop, the Daniel Holtzclaw case is sadly familiar. Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, is alleged to have forced eight women, all of them black, to have sex with him or face arrest. His alleged victims range in age from 34 to 58; at least one of them is a grandmother. He is charged with 16 felonious counts, including rape, forcible oral sodomy and sexual battery, for assaults carried out over six months, according to investigators. The attorney of an alleged victim — one of just two who reported her assault to police —said that her client was “afraid that no one was going to believe her because she’s African-American.”
“Rape is vastly underreported across the board, but African-American women are significantly less likely to report than white women are. In fact, a Department of Justice study found that while one out of six white women report sexual assault, just one out of 16 black women do. For many of Holtzclaw’s alleged victims, the added complexities of class and previous arrests made the choice of of keeping quiet less threatening than being stalked and sexually battered. (Holtzclaw reportedly assaulted some of his victims multiple times.) Lots of people will dwell on this — it’s a wink-nudge way of talking around race — while ignoring the fact that there are black women in every sphere, in every class, in every town, who wrestle with the reality that our bodies and lives are simply valued less. It is an incredibly sad fact, with long historical roots. A heartbreaking truth that, sadly and surely, Daniel Holtzclaw knew all too well.”
More Laws = More Violence: Criminalization as a Failed Strategy for Anti-Violence Movements
Featuring Angélica Cházaro, Shira Hassan, Soniya Munshi, Andrea Ritchie, Andrea Smith, and Dean Spade.
In October 2013, BCRW and The Engaging Tradition Project co-convened a conference called Queer Dreams and Non-Profit blues to examine the critiques emerging from queer and feminist activists and scholars about the impact of funding on social movement agendas and formations. During the conference, Hope Dector from BCRW and Dean Spade from The Engaging Tradition Project conducted interviews with many of the speakers about their analysis and strategies related to the conference themes. These interviews were edited into 30 short videos that aim to bring these critical perspectives into an accessible format for use in activist spaces and classrooms. These videos highlight the type of knowledge production that is possible when the boundaries between activism and the academy are actively traversed.
“The path was so direct from the violence against women movement to growing the prison industrial complex. It was such a clear failure to so many of us who were involved in the 80s and 90s. We had this moment of wake-up: More laws equals more violence in our lives.” -Shira Hassan. Thanks toDean Spade and Hope Dector from the Barnard Center for Research on Women for sharing this resource with all of us!