Park Slope

National Organization for Women demands justice for Prospect Park rape victim

Two decades after brutal attack, police ID suspect

January 16, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The victim was raped in Prospect Park in 1994 and immediately faced questions from skeptics about her ordeal. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation
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Fallout continued this week over a notorious Brooklyn rape case that was recently solved after more than two decades amid sharp criticisms of the treatment of the victim by police and the media. 

On Monday, the New York City arm of the National Organization for Women (NOW) held a rally in Prospect Park, where the rape took place in 1994, and demanded better treatment of rape survivors. The NOW members were joined by rape survivors at the rally.

The advocates called for the New York Police Department (NYPD) to improve its investigative techniques and to increase the resources dedicated to sexual assault cases. 

The call for changes came on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Several of the advocates cited the case of the woman who was raped in Prospect Park 24 years ago. NYPD recently solved that cold case, tying DNA found on the victim two decades ago to James Edward Webb, an inmate currently serving 75 years to life in prison for an unrelated crime.

The Prospect Park rape survivor, who is not being publicly identified, will not be able to bring her case against the suspect because of the statute of limitations law that was in place at the time of the rape. New York state didn’t repeal its statute of limitations law on rape until 2006.

In 1994, the victim faced skepticism when she reported the rape, according to NOW leaders, who said a newspaper columnist wrote a column in which he quoted police as casting doubt on her story. 

The public skepticism compounded the suffering and trauma the victim was enduring, NOW leaders said.

Last week, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who was in charge of the NYPD public information office at the time of the rape, publicly apologized to the victim.

“An apology isn’t enough. This predator went on to terrorize five more women. The reality is we haven’t made enough progress. We see firsthand how survivors still face a hostile police force and court system. Outdated attitudes about victims continue to persist in our criminal justice system and the media today,” said NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio.

Ossorio said that despite the fact that the #MeToo is sweeping the country, women “need to lift our voices to demand change in our workplaces and in our justice system.” 

In a recent statement to The New York Times, the victim called for a series of criminal justice reforms including: changes in training techniques for police, DNA testing in cold cases and better treatment of sex crime victims. 

NOW is demanding that NYPD investigate to determine which officers cast doubt on the victim’s claims back in 1994, increase the size of the Special Victims Unit (SVU) and require a higher level of training for SVU officers, improve training for first responder cops on how to treat victims and commit to technology updates to enable more cold cases to be closed. 

On Monday, NOW leaders and advocates credited Detective Sarah Mathers, Detective Andrea Sorrentino, Sgt. Keri Thompson and Deputy Chief Michael Osgood for their work in solving the Prospect Park case. They also praised Police Commissioner James O’Neill and NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce who they said pushed for the case to be re-opened.

But credit should also be given to the victim, according to Jane Manning, the director of advocacy for NOW-NYC. 

“The Prospect Park survivor, after an unimaginable ordeal, did everything in her power to help apprehend her attacker and protect other women. That’s what courage looks like. We can all learn something from her determination to put a predator in prison where he belongs. The investigators who solved her case are heroes, but the foremost hero of this story is Jane Doe,” Manning said. 

NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.


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