A woman who claims her rape case was “botched” by NYPD’s Special Victims Division testified during an emotional City Council hearing Monday that investigators closed her case twice without her knowledge — and stuck her with the bill to test her for date-rape drugs.
The survivor, who only identified herself as Christine, told legislators from the Women and Gender Equity and Public Safety committees that the systemic issues that have long plagued the unit — and were the subject of a scathing 2018 Department of Investigation report — are festering to this day.
“Beginning with my botched rape investigation, it has been difficult to experience firsthand the systemic incompetency and lack of investigative effort,” Christine said during the hearing.
“The only arrest that has been made is on my ability to move on with my life, as the burden of this case continues to fall on me.”
Christine, who was drugged at a bar last September and raped at the perpetrator’s home, said she personally prepared a “comprehensive 13-page document detailing the incident” that included “related images, screenshots, phone numbers” and a “blueprint” of the suspect’s home that she made herself to assist cops with the probe.
She testified that the first detective assigned to her case failed to conduct a basic information investigation, “let alone a thorough one,” and instead set up a “controlled call” with the attacker with the hope that he’d incriminate himself in some way and admit to the crime.
“The detective did not interview viable witnesses or retrieve now lost footage from the bar [where] I was last seen publicly. Instead, he insisted I partake in a traumatizing controlled phone call with a man who raped me,” Christine testified.
“In this control phone call, I was called stupid, crazy, by whom? By the rapist. During that phone call, and he was shouting at me, and the entire time the detective is recording all that, and I just don’t know how any rapist is going to admit what they did.”
Michael King, the head of the embattled division, defended the investigator and said cops “depend” on control calls when it’s a he-said, she-said situation with no witnesses or video.
“We have Party A saying something happened and Party B disputing. That’s why a control call is what we depend on in something like that because we’re hoping Party B may make a disclosure that, yes, force was used,” King explained at the hearing.
A month after Christine filed the police report on the incident, there had been no updates on the case and when she called the detective, she was told the case was closed.
“Had I not called, I never would have found out. To understand how my case could have been closed, I was met with the NYPD and Special Victims units’ lack of transparency. My experience aggressively self-advocating for basic information about my rape case, an endeavor that took nearly six months after my case was closed, reflects badly on the NYPD and Special Victims Unit,” she said.
Christine managed to get the case reopened in March but said the second detective she was assigned, billed as one of the best in the department, failed to advocate for hair testing that could’ve shown the date-rape drug GHB in her system.
The test results could’ve provided cops with evidence that disputed the rapist’s denials — but the detective claimed to Christine she’d “never done” such testing before and it was out of her hands.
“I would have needed to pay over $1,000 out of pocket for this procedure. As I speak, my hair samples remain untested in a lab,” she said.
“Why am I paying for a crime committed against me?”
In September, about a year after Christine was raped, she learned the case had been closed once again.
Adrienne Adams, the chair of the public safety committee, called Christine’s story “disturbing” and ripped King for the alleged failures.
“We’ve got a list here of just problematic behavior. Problematic interaction, problematic relationship between this division and the survivors,” Adams said.
“[Christine] was, in essence, her own detective. How in heaven’s name can we allow a survivor to pick up her own case, track her own case, offer her own evidence, spend her own money, and then this division comes back and pretty much slaps her back in the face?”
King said he will “take a look at this case personally” and reach out with his findings.
Further compounding issues at the SVD is the unit’s inability to make the changes that were mandated by law to be completed following the 2018 DOI report and subsequent shakeup of top brass who oversaw the division.
In November 2018, legislators passed a law that required all SVD investigators to receive trauma-informed training, but the contract with the vendor selected to provide the vital service was terminated last August, King testified.
He said the department only just found a new provider and training will resume next month, which means investigators haven’t been trained on how to interview sensitive rape and child abuse victims for over a year.
Of SVD’s 255 investigators, 104 aren’t trained, including 56 who’ve been assigned to the unit for a year and 48 who’ve held the post for about three to four months, King said.
He noted that 67 of the division’s investigators are assigned to the adult squads, an 82 percent increase, but Jane Manning, a former sex crimes prosecutor and the director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, said the numbers are still woefully inadequate.
She said Christine’s story, the lack of training and the small amount of resources devoted to special victims cases shows how little the department has changed following the DOI report.
“Two hundred fifty-five investigators in a force of 35,000 police officers. That equates to less than 1 percent of the police force assigned to investigate all cases of sexual assault and all cases of child abuse in New York City, though they are some of the most demanding and labor-intensive cases,” Manning said.
“We don’t just need the right quantity of detectives, we need the right quality … The problems with this are obvious: They are not trauma trained, they don’t know how to investigate a simple case, let alone a rape case,” she continued.
“If the NYPD leadership cared, we’d see a Special Victims [unit] with top-notch investigators in sufficient numbers with trauma-informed training … what we are seeing, in reality, is the opposite.”