A New York police captain has apologized after suggesting that some rapes are not as serious as others — comments that went viral and sparked outrage from officials and the general public.
Capt. Peter Rose, head of NYPD’s 94th Precinct, first made his controversial comments last week to a DNAinfo New York reporter about an increase in sex attacks in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood.
“Every rape should be investigated,” Rose told the news site. “I wish we could do more.”
Thirteen attempted rapes and rapes were reported in the precinct in 2016, compared with eight in 2015, according to police crime statistics. Ten of those cases remained unsolved, DNAinfo reported.
Rose seemingly tried to play down the increase.
“It really becomes a balancing act for the investigators. Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of theme were actually coworkers,” Rose told DNAinfo. “It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [rapes and attempted rapes reported], only two were true stranger rapes. … If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards.”
Rose elaborated on his perceived difference between those cases at a community council meeting Wednesday, according to the news site.
“They’re not total-abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets,” Rose said at the meeting, referring to rape cases in which the victim may have known the perpetrator, according to the news site.
After the article published Thursday and word of Rose’s comments spread online, thousands reacted in outrage and anger.
“Wtf,” one Twitter user said. “No NYPD rape is always rape. There are no degrees of rape. And no always means no. No matter what.”
“Very disturbing comments by @NYPD94Pct,” tweeted another. “Please educate yourself, Peter Rose.”
New York city hall immediately distanced itself from Rose’s comments, saying in a statement that they did not represent the views of Mayor Bill de Blasio, his administration or the NYPD.
“Rape is rape, in New York City and everywhere else,” de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said. “The crime merits no moral qualification and does not involve shades of criminality or degrees of danger. In New York City, rape is aggressively investigated and prosecuted blind to the nature of the underlying relationship, and with an absolute focus on obtaining justice for the survivor and safety for our neighborhoods.”
On Friday, the NYPD released a statement walking back Rose’s comments.
“Captain Rose’s comments did not properly explain the complexity of issues involved with investigating rape complaints,” NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said, adding that all reported cases are “thoroughly investigated” by the department. “All complaints of rape and other types of sexual crimes are taken seriously whether they are committed by domestic partners, acquaintances, or strangers.”
Davis noted that the department had conducted several public campaigns in recent years to encourage people to report sexual assault crimes.
“Due to the anonymous and random nature of rapes committed by strangers, detectives often face greater challenges in these types of crimes,” he said. “Regardless, all sexual offenses are taken seriously.”
The department did not respond Sunday to questions about whether Rose would be subject to any disciplinary action or mandatory training, or to a request to interview him.
On Monday, Rose broke his silence and posted an apology on Twitter.
“I deeply regret the statements I made last week about rape,” he wrote. “I failed to communicate accurately how I respond to reports of rape, and the actions the Department as a whole takes. My comments were not meant to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault.
“Every rape, whether it is perpetrated by a stranger or someone known to them is fully investigated. We make no distinction in response. My comments suggested otherwise and for that I apologize.”
Though reports of sexual violence in the United States have fallen by more than half since 1993, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes, according to statistics from the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, a nonprofit that advocates for survivors of sex crimes.
About one of every six women in the country — and about one in 33 men — has been the victim of a rape of an attempted rape in her lifetime, the group said.
The group notes that seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. That figure jumps even higher when the victim is a juvenile: For 93 percent of child and teen victims of sexual abuse, the perpetrator was an acquaintance or family member.
Roy Richter, president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association, told the New York Daily News that Rose misspoke and defended him.
“His statements don’t correctly reflect how serious a crime this is and how seriously he takes them,” Richter said. “It was a pure misstatement. The words came out wrong and unfortunately they look even worse in print.”
Extremely troubled by comments suggesting that stranger rapes are the "troubling ones." All rapes are heinous crimes https://t.co/pzoq9BwgYA
— Tish James (@TishJames) January 6, 2017
Still, others worried that the damage was done. New York public advocate Letitia James said in a statement that she was “extremely disturbed and concerned” by Rose’s comments and feared that they would deter rape victims from coming forward to the NYPD.
“Rape is a heinous and brutal crime that should be treated as such, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a stranger or known by the victim,” James said. “Too often, victims of rape and sexual crimes do not come forward because of fear that their claims won’t be taken seriously, and these comments perpetuate those concerns.”
The women’s advocacy group UltraViolet started a petition online calling for the NYPD to fire Rose.
“This is the kind of attitude in law enforcement and the courts that allow the rape of 1 in 3 women to happen — or let rapists like Brock Turner off the hook,” the petition read in part.
(Turner, a former Stanford University student who was convicted in March of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity house, was released from jail after serving three months of his six-month sentence. His case gained nationwide attention when his victim, known only as “Emily Doe,” wrote a 12-page impact statement calling his jail sentence “a soft timeout.”)
“Rape is a crime — whether you know the rapist or not, whether you are on Tinder or not — and it is the responsibility of law enforcement to investigate, prosecute and hold rapists accountable for their crimes — period, full stop,” Nita Chaudhary, the group’s founder, told the Huffington Post.
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams described the report of the spike in Greenpoint sex crimes as “troubling.”
“We can all agree every #rape’s an abomination,” he tweeted.