According to the San Francisco General Hospital, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of patients admitted for sexual assault from 2016-17. However, the number of arrests has not changed.
This fact alone shows that the San Francisco Police Department is failing this city’s residents. On April 25, survivors of sexual assault spoke to the Board of Supervisors about the cruel apathy they faced from the SFPD. A woman claiming the name of Jane Doe said the police assumed that she forgot to give consent. Rape culture – the idea that the society we live in does not care about victims of rape and perpetuates the behaviour that leads to rape – was on full display at this hearing. It’s not that the SFPD wants women to be assaulted; it’s that the department is seemingly not invested enough in helping women who have been.
The danger of this should not be understated. If someone is assaulted and they do not have faith in the police, where do they go for justice? If they do eventually build up the courage to talk to the police, then the fact that they waited so long will serve as a strike against them. It is likely that crucial evidence will have been gone – even if the police are trying as hard as they can to solve the case.
It seems fitting that this happened in the era of the #MeToo movement, which I’ve always supported. There have been too many men who’ve abused their power and too many women who have either been too afraid to stop it or have been silenced when they tried to speak out. The movement itself has been criticized by both devout progressives and conservatives for being too focused on the elite. Due to the fact that the #MeToo era started with the reveal that Harvey Weinstein had been taking advantage of actresses, a lot of the focus has been on women in Hollywood. Feminists like myself often wondered if this would be a movement for all women, or one only for women who are already well-known. To be clear, every survivor deserves a voice, and nobody is “too successful” to care about. However, the solutions to ending sexual assault in Hollywood are different than the solutions needed to, for instance, end sexual assault towards undocumented farmworkers.
Police mistreatment needs to be a top priority for this movement. I am not the first person to say this – misogynistic police culture has been around since before I was born (but hopefully won’t be around when I’m gone). It’s not that I don’t believe that the movement has not cared about this issue, it’s that I believe we need to prioritize it.
The SFPD has failed its city’s victims and created a culture that makes people think they can’t trust the law and the system that enforces it. The solution to this deep-rooted issue will not be easy or quick. We need a stronger third party agency to watch over the Special Victims Unit to ensure that this display of incompetence doesn’t happen in the first place.
The most important trait for any activist to have is hope: the belief that things will get better. If one believes that this world will remain the same as it is right now, then they have no reason to fight for a better future. Despite my current disgust with this system, the fact that the Board of Supervisors had this committee in the first place shows the change in times – just as the fact that men are having their careers ruined for assault shows that things are starting to change.
The SFPD neglected its duty and women were hurt, and the SFPD should face repercussions as a result. But that does not mean this is how it will always be. If we can channel the passion that fuels this era of #MeToo towards making concrete changes, I have faith that we can build a better world.