Guardian reporters Oliver Laughland and Jon Swaine have created a investigative series on the vast police corruption that has taken place in Kern County, California. So far, the series includes officer-related fatalities and excessive force
which reportedly are the highest in America this year.
The newest revelations in the series have been added, and they expose the rape/sexual assault/misconduct by law enforcement officials—and their subsequent attempts to cover up the crimes after being reported. At least eight victims were offered bribes/deals as hush money.
One victim described her victimization as, “the worst night of my life.” She is known, in court, only as 21-year-old Jane Doe. She describes an assault by Kern Country deputy Gabriel Lopez which took place on March 25, 2013. Lopez and deputy Christopher Escobedo showed up at Doe’s apartment to do a spot check on Doe’s boyfriend who was on probation. But what happened after was illegal, disgusting, and all too common.
They then moved to her bedroom and found the 21-year-old woman stirring from sleep. The officers placed her in handcuffs. Lopez patted her down and then, according to a civil lawsuit, proceeded to move his hands down her shorts, grab her crotch and grope her. The handcuffs were removed. Then the officers left.
Approximately 10 minutes later Doe said Deputy Lopez arrived back at the apartment alone.
He told Doe he needed to perform a cavity search on her to check once more for drugs. He took her back to the bedroom and instructed her to take off all her clothes. He touched her all over her naked body as she bent over with her hands against the bed. She sobbed throughout. She begged him to stop, but he refused. And then he left.
Doe filed a report, and a week later officials came from Kern County’s sheriff’s department offering her up to $7,500 to waive her right to sue the department. This is just one of the many stories by victims in the Guardian article (a good read).
In an Associated Press story, about 1,000 officers lost their badges over a period of six years for rape/sodomy/sexual assault and other sex-related crimes. Yes, it’s good to see that some cases have been exposed. But until there is more national public awareness and discourse, more police training and counseling, more consequences suffered by perpetrating officers, rapes/sexual assaults, by law enforcement officials, will continue.
"It's happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country," said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "It's so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them."
It takes courage to report sexual assault/rape, much less by an officer of law. If you’ve been ever been sexually victimized by a policeman or policewoman or—by any person—contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). You can contact the organization online or call 800-656-HOPE (4673). They offer caring, safe, and secure counseling, and can advise on what steps to take next.
As a rape survivor, my life changed when I finally reached out for help years later. Please know, you don’t have to live with the fear, shame, and/or guilt many feel after a rape/sexual attack. Ask for help. It’s out there. And please, please try to remember—it’s not your fault.