Reports of rape fall on deaf ears

Robert Thomas Young

Anthony Sowell was found guilty of multiple counts of aggravated murder on Friday, July 22. However, this case involves more than a serial killer murdering 11 women. It involves police officers systematically ignoring the rape of drug-addicted women.

Vanessa Gay, 37, testified in court that Sowell raped her and that her report was ignored until after Sowell was arrested. This is crucial because some of the murders took place after Gay reported she was raped, but it also sheds light on the problem of class status and how those suffering from addiction are treated by police.

Nearly a year after being raped, Gay was arrested on a warrant for having an open container. When she brought up her rape report, she said the police officers laughed at her. After multiple attempts to file a report, she actually had to get a judge to order Cleveland Police to do so.

Another rape victim, whose report eventually led police to search Sowell’s home, said that she waited in a local emergency room for six hours to make a police report and to get an examination. Even though she reported being raped and choked, it took police more than a month to search Sowell’s house (which was full of bodies).

There are many issues plaguing law enforcement: hypocrisy, double standards, corruption and lack of education, to name a few. Nonetheless, the bias exhibited toward these women is inexcusable. This obvious prejudice should be acknowledged and training should take place to ensure something like this never happens again.

Even after a full report was taken from the last rape victim, it took more than a month to actually investigate. The Cleveland Police Department should be ashamed, but instead, officials have commended the officers working on the Sowell case. How can a system improve itself if it admits no error?

These women were ignored because of their social status. Worse yet, more women lost their lives due this prejudice. These officers failed to do their jobs. Would these women have been ignored if they were model citizens?

Sowell knew the disdain and lack of respect the police have for drug addicts in Cleveland, and these facts allowed him to continue to brutalize, rape and kill while police turned a blind eye.

I understand that police officers need to prioritize, especially in high-crime areas, and I also understand the need to question the truth of a person who abuses drugs. However, the lack of compassion and disregard for the law these officers showed is offensive. And, in my opinion, this is business as normal in Cleveland.

Three years ago when my computer was hacked, I was living in Tremont, a small eclectic Cleveland neighborhood. I went down to file a police report, and the first officer didn’t think it was a crime. The second officer screamed at me and told me I was wasting his time. Not only was he loud, he was three inches from my face with an aggressive body posture and a gun in his holster.

It took calling his commanding officer at Second District to get a report filed. Even he tried to write it off, though. He said his officers usually deal with crimes like burglary or assault, and that they weren’t familiar with the laws or process surrounding my case. I can understand that, but why did he scream at me and get so aggressive?

My experience with Cleveland Police has been related mostly to the hacking incident and the couple times our cars were damaged. I understand what it’s like to have a police officer refuse to take a report, which was ridiculous. However, the fact the Gay had to get a court order to force Cleveland Police to take her report is appalling.

I could not imagine what these women must have endured when their reports of rape and brutality fell on deaf ears. Being addicted to drugs doesn’t legitimize being ignored by the police, especially when the charge is as serious as rape. This issue needs to be exposed and addressed so it doesn’t happen again.

Robert Thomas Young is a senior philosophy major.

Contact him at [email protected].