A New Study Provides a Small Window Into How Often Police Officers Assault Women


Across the country, police officers are assaulting and harassing women, and we barely have the proper data to find out how frequently this happens. But according to a new study from Bowling Green State University, between 2005 and 2013 police officers in the US were charged with forcible rape 405 times.

CNN reports that BGSU researchers created the list using cases of nonfederal law enforcement officers who were arrested. In the group of police arrested for sex crimes, there were 636 incidents of forcible fondling and 219 instances of forcible sodomy.

We know already that police officers abuse women in the field, from invasive searches to rape, and in some states, like New York, it’s long been legal to assault women in custody due to loopholes in the system. And the scariest part of this research is that this is just what was found crowdsourcing media reports. The report points out that police sexual misconduct is often a hidden offense, with studies based on small samples. CNN’s story includes this chilling line: “No one interviewed for this story could give an estimate, even ballpark, on how underreported these types of crimes might be.”

We have no idea how frequently officers assault women because the data simply doesn’t exist. And until the 18,000 departments across the country that don’t have to answer to national standards start to record and regulate such behavior, we might never be able to prove how deep this problem is.

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