Defunding the Police Means Justice for Survivors Too

Written By: CQ, TBTN Board of Directors

** Content/Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Police Violence **

Following the murder of #GeorgeFloyd at the hands of a police officer, the world changed, erupting in protests demanding accountability and the dismantling of a centuries-old system that claims to serve and protect, while actively refusing to be accountable to its community, especially that of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Queer, Transgender and Disabled people. Sac TBTN released a statement, joining in solidarity and declaring with conviction that #BlackLivesMatter while transforming our social media platforms to spread the word of various actions happening in Sacramento. 

As a black queer woman, I took it to the streets, participating in and supporting actions throughout Sacramento, and spending a lot of time providing emotional and educational labor via social media. As an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and sex trafficking for several years, I found myself being asked the same series of questions:

  • “Isn’t rape your thing? How can you support defunding the police?”
  • “What about rape victims? Who is going to help them?”
  • “How can you protest the police?”

Before I could begin to answer, this post happened:

An image of a tweet with the question, “But what about rape and domestic violence, don’t we need cops for that?” with the answer, “In my 5+ years as a domestic violence counselor, there was not one instance where I saw a victim of either sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence get the help they needed by the police.”

Shortly after, my inbox exploded with messages from people who simply could not comprehend this. Ultimately one thing was clear: the world STILL doesn’t know how much law enforcement negatively impacts survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sex trafficking. So I’d like to share as well as declare that there are several intersections with Sac TBTN and V-Day Sacramento’s platforms in regards to law enforcement’s abuse of power. Here are the stats:

  • Sexual misconduct is the 2nd most frequent form of abuse after police brutality/excessive force.
  • A police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct with someone in their custody once every 5 days.
  • 40% of police officers are perpetrators of domestic violence. 
  • In 35 states it is legal for police to “define consent” and sexually assault people in their custody.
  • 60% of all reported jail and prison rapes have been committed by a correctional officer.
  • Only 23% of sexual assaults are reported to police. Fewer than 6% of those reports lead to arrest. Only 1% result in convictions.
  • Half of arrests involving police officers were for sexual misconduct involving minors.
  • 3 out of 5 women that have been sexually assaulted by police are women of color.
  • 40% of police sexual misconduct involves targeting survivors of domestic violence. The rest involves extorting sex workers, sex trafficking victims and transgender women under the threat of prostitution charges if they do not cooperate.
  • There are nearly 14,000 untested rape kits in California, 500 in Sacramento.

There’s more, but that’s probably enough for now. Below is a list of resources as well as 700 credible cases of sexual misconduct from law enforcement personnel over the course of 10 years. 

As you can see, rape and domestic violence are not only beyond policing but a part of the culture of policing. Who do you go to when the rapist is a cop? Because THAT’S what we need. The police officers that aren’t rapists don’t have the skills to assist someone that has just been through trauma and have a long track record of handling these cases inadequately, leaving survivors feeling invalidated and/or further violated and traumatized. Defunding the police is the first step in establishing alternatives that are supportive and affirming and will lead to restorative justice for survivors, by releasing city funds that could be dedicated to this effort.

So what can you do? It’s actually very simple: Do your part to support the Movement for Black Lives and Defunding the Police. There are countless resources available online that you can find on ways to get involved that go beyond marching in the streets, but here’s one action that you can take RIGHT NOW: Call and email your city leadership. 

The City of Sacramento currently gives the Sacramento Police Department nearly 50% of the ENTIRE city budget. The City Council also intends on giving 47% of Measure U funds that were promised to the community to the police ON TOP of what they already receive. Looking at the big picture, you will see that this wildly disproportionate spread of funds is the main reason our communities lack resources for our youth, poor, disabled, unhoused, schools, mentally ill, all of which includes survivors, with Black, Brown, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities taking the biggest hit. There is a special City Council meeting on policing taking place on Wednesday, 7/1. Call, write and show up however you can to demand that the City Council #GiveItBack! 

Learn more about #GiveItBackSac AND what you can do about it: tinyurl.com/GiveItBackSac (#GiveItBackSac info sourced from Black Justice Sacramento on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/blackjusticesacramento)

Resources:

700 Sexual Misconduct Cases – https://s3.amazonaws.com/bncore/projects/abusing-the-law/data.html

Bureau of Justice Statistics – https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=6326

NSVRC – https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics

National Sexual Violence Resource Center Library Catalog – https://n80002.eos-intl.net/N80002/OPAC1/Index.aspx

RAINN – https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

National Center for Women & Policing – http://womenandpolicing.com/

Unlawful Shield – https://www.unlawfulshield.com/2010-q3-national-police-misconduct-statistical-report/

Cato Institute – https://www.cato.org/

The Crime Report – https://thecrimereport.org/2020/03/12/predators-behind-the-badge-confronting-hidden-police-sexual-misconduct/

Police Sexual Misconduct: A National Scale Study of Arrested Officers – https://www.bwjp.org/assets/documents/pdfs/webinars/dhhs-police-sexual-misconduct-a-national-scale-study.pdf

End the Backlog – http://www.endthebacklog.org/california