The Norfolk Virginia Police Department found themselves in hot water following an intense interview with a victim of a sexual assault that resulted in a brief closure of her case while her attacker walked among the public. The 22-year-old woman has since seen her attacker, Roy Ruiz Loredo, a diagnosed serial rapist, plead guilty; he is currently serving a 36-year jail sentence. Loredo also awaits trial on allegations he attacked three women in the Virginia Beach area. The changes instituted by Chief Mike Goldsmith following this tragic event will ensure Norfolk has more accurate crime reporting, and that sexual assault reports will be treated as valid until proven to the contrary.
The victim was subjected to what Chief Goldsmith called "inappropriate treatment" during her time reporting the assault to officers. This included being told, "If we find out that you're lying, this will be a felony charge," "You're telling us a different story than you told … the other detectives," and "This only happened hours ago. Why can't you remember?” The interrogation of the victim was so rough that the woman cut off the interview and the case was briefly closed until she returned and issued a written statement. In an effort to ensure something this heinous does not happen again, several new procedures were put in place including having a rape crisis advocate or personal representative in the room for the interview and no longer classifying cases as unfounded until proven otherwise.
The inclusion of a rape crisis advocate coupled with the new training in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and rape trauma syndrome officers should be more equipped in handling the questioning of a victim to gather information. The victim will no longer have to face difficult questions regarding a traumatic experience alone and will have the assistance of a trained professional. The reluctance to classify rapes as unfounded is important because when a case is believed to be unfounded, it is not reported in crime statistics. When police declare a sexual assault case to be unfounded it essentially means that the police do not believe the account told to them by the victim, a move that potentially leaves attackers on the street. By making a claim of unfounded needing to be proven, the Norfolk Police are now ensuring some level of groundwork must be done to validate such a claim. This will limit the amount of judgment calls made by officers when it comes to sexual assault cases where guesswork should be minimal to start.
These solutions should be put in place for police stations across the United States, as we should seek a decrease in so-called unfounded claims. In 2012, the Police Executive Research Forum suggested that unfounded stop being used for sexual assault claims, noting that it remains a problem in cities. Only 2% of rape accusations are proven to be false. Since this is the case, America's police must drop finding cases unfounded without groundwork and begin finding those who break our laws and prey on innocent women.