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NY Post Continues to Be Terrible, Slut Shames Teenage Rape Survivor

Why is one of New York City’s biggest tabloids illustrating their story about cops who allegedly raped a teenager with Facebook photos of the survivor in a bikini?

Last week, an 18-year-old woman came forward to report that two New York cops raped her in a police van after she was pulled over while driving with two friends. According to her lawyer, the detectives sent her friends away, claimed they were searching for drugs, and ordered her to undress; when they didn’t find any drugs, her lawyer says, they handcuffed and raped her. The story came to light last week, after the detectives, Richard Hall and Eddie Martins, were moved to desk duty.

This is a horrifying story of state violence – of cops using their guns, their badges, and their impunity to rape and abuse vulnerable women.  A 2015 AP investigation found that over 1,000 officers across America had lost their badges because of sexual assault – and, their report noted, that number is “unquestionably an undercount” because many states, including New York, don’t keep state records of decertified cops. And those numbers only represent the officers who are fired because of sexual violence – which, when most survivors don’t come forward, means they only represent a small fraction of the actual prevalence of police-perpetrated sexual violence nationwide.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen repeated over and over and over again, most famously after Oklahoma City cop Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty on 18 charges of assaulting and raping Black women.

New York’s papers and the national media should be clamoring to ask the Mayor and the Police Chief how this happened, how they’ll stop it, and why they they turned a blind eye after all those other lawsuits by women sexually assaulted by the NYPD. The City’s inaction is outrageous – but the media is treating the survivors, her clothes, and her selfies like that’s the scandal instead.

The New York Post plastered their pages about two New York police officers allegedly raping a teenager not with photos of Mayor DeBlasio or NYPD Chief Bill Bratton, but with giant photos of the rape victim in a bikini, pulled from her personal Facebook page. Photos of the NYPD detectives who allegedly committed the assault? Nowhere to be found, because apparently it’s her character that’s in question.

As feminist writer Melissa Gira Grant put it: “this is how much the tabs love cops and hate women.”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with a young woman posting selfies online — and what she’s wearing in them has exactly nothing to do with her report of sexual assault. There’s no conceivable journalistic interest in running racy photos of a teenage rape survivor. It’s a transparent and disturbing attempt to capitalize on a survivor’s trauma by publishing cheap clickbait, violating her privacy in the process.

Survivors often talk about how reporting sexual assault to institutions that belittle and betray them feels like a second trauma. Imagine, for a second, what it’s like to have your bodily autonomy stripped away by sexual violence, then have to report your assault to the very Police Department that employs your rapist – and then to wake up to find out you’ve been exposed to your whole city by the local tabloid. The Post is inflicting an unconscionable violation on a teenage woman who’s already survived an unconscionable violation. Every single reporter, editor, and social media manager responsible for this should be fired, and deeply ashamed.

By running explicit photos of a victim, the Post is making their message explicit, too: that because a teenager takes provocative photos, somehow she’s at fault for a sexual assault, or she must be lying, or worst of all, that girls like her aren’t really rape-able anyway. It’s the same insidious, misogynistic garbage that’s been used to excuse rape by powerful men for centuries.

The print version of the story is somehow even worse. The Post ran a small photo of an NYPD squad car, representing the institution actually at fault here, but it’s dwarfed by a selfie of the victim in a bikini. It’s a metaphor every survivor on Earth will recognize. The Post, and the world, is more interested and exposing and scrutinizing the girl who was handcuffed in the back of a van than the men who preyed on her and the institutions that enabled them.

You can let the Post know what you think at online@nypost.com or 646-357-3838.

Photo Credit: The Oddessey Online

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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