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Letter to the Editor: The exceptional crime of sexual violence

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Letter to Editor

I live here in town and am the executive director of a Massachusetts nonprofit (RIA, Inc.) that serves hundreds of women who have experienced sexual violence, including rape, exploitation and sex trafficking.

What appears to be a Hopkinton Police Department policy violation on the part of Officer Tim Brennan, was, in fact, best practice in the area of victim rights related to the crime of sexual violence.

It bears repeating that when an adult first communicates past sexual violence of any kind, it is CRUCIAL that the individual is supported in making sense of what has happened to her, and on her own terms. When you walk alongside adult survivors like I do, helping someone heal means helping them rebuild trust in their human relationships. That is what Officer Brennan did, and expertly — even though it stood in the way of process.

Let’s talk for a moment about police misconduct. Do you know that sexual assault is the second most reported form of police misconduct in the U.S., after excessive force? In fact, the rate of sexual assault perpetrated by police is more than double that of the general population (CATO Institute).

Two-thirds of all sexual assaults are never reported to police. Only 1% of actual reports ever reach a court. Why? Number 1, police are notorious for discouraging victims from filing.

A 2020 study found that most all cases of sexual misconduct by police were reported not by the victims themselves but by concerned citizens, and even when a police officer was arrested for such crime, fewer than half were terminated from their jobs.

I am not god-fearing and have few heroes in my life, yet I see that Officer Brennan is more hero than hurtful. And the person he has protected is fiercely resilient, brave and wise to have trusted again.

— Heather Wightman, Hopkinton

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