Setting the Record Straight

On Johnson's Comments

When County Executive Jack B. Johnson last appeared on WTOP radio, he responded to questions about increases in the incidence of rape in the county. His comments have been misinterpreted.

The confusion seems to have crystallized around the absurd notion that his comments trivialized rape and sexual assault. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Long before he was the county's top prosecutor, and later as county executive, he has been an unequivocal advocate for strict and serious sentences for sexual offenders. I served as an assistant state's attorney under Mr. Johnson, and I can personally attest to his commitment to vigorously prosecute sexual offenders, regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. No one is clearer about the fact that rape is a violent crime, and of the importance of doing everything to prevent it.

The confusion about the interview was focused on his explanation to the interviewer that, unfortunately and too often, women are being attacked by offenders they know. This fact does not imply or suggest that the act of violence, in which the victim and the attacker might know each other, is less serious than rape involving strangers. It certainly does not imply that the victim is any less victimized.

Understanding crime not only helps police do a better job of policing but also helps government strengthen and develop services to assist victims, and create avenues that help women protect themselves and their families. Mr. Johnson's keen understanding of these and other crimes better equips our county to tackle this problem.

The change we are seeing in rape cases is another sign of the societal challenges within our county. Communities everywhere are facing the same or similar challenges. Hiring more police officers alone will not fully address this issue. We must begin again to teach young men that a woman's right to say no is inviolable, and that violence against women is never acceptable.

Michael Herman

Chief of staff for County Executive Jack B. Johnson