Two New York Police Department officers accused of raping a teenager while on duty are smearing the victim’s credibility over her social media posts and ideas of how a rape victim should behave, according to a letter obtained by the New York Post.
The teenager, who goes by the name “Anna Chambers” online and isn’t using her legal name in press, said she was raped by Brooklyn narcotics detectives Richard Hall and Edward Martins on September 15. Chambers said she was driving with two of her friends, and after being pulled over by the detectives, her car was searched. The cops found a bag of drugs next to Chambers, and one on her friend’s person. Chambers says they then handcuffed her and drove her to a Chipotle parking lot in an unmarked van. She said that both cops both forced their penises into her mouth, while she was still handcuffed. One of the officers then raped her, she said, and they left her on a street corner near the 60th Precinct. Her attorney says she then went to a hospital and was given a rape kit. DNA samples from the rape kit matched Hall and Martins, according to law enforcement officials and the teenager’s attorney.
The cops say it was all consensual and are now trying to attack Chambers’ credibility. In a letter to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the cops’ lawyers highlight some of Chambers’ social media posts, including “provocative” selfies and videos of her rapping and joking about the money that will soon be in her bank account, and ask if they are in line with how someone would behave if they were actually raped. “This behavior is unprecedented for a depressed victim of a vicious rape,” the letter reads.
In sending the letter, the cops’ attorneys assume that people react to trauma in the same ways — they don’t — and imply that someone who posts attractive selfies of herself online (and thus may have sex regularly) surely consented to rape with the two officers who detained her. The attorneys also overlook one of the biggest things about social media: people curate images of how they want to appear, and in this case, Chambers may simply want to appear in control through her posts.
“I’m so hurt by this situation,” Chambers told the Intercept over Twitter direct message. “She’s devastated, She doesn’t leave home, she’s extremely depressed, and has been victimized again by these cops saying it was consensual,” added her attorney Michael David. “This was a kidnapping, and this was rape.”
“Without commenting on this ongoing investigation, defense counsel’s characterization of how a rape victim should behave is inaccurate, inappropriate and demeaning,” a spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A.’s office said in a statement.
The New York Post, which first obtained a copy of the letter, has also been complicit in helping to smear the victim. In an initial story on the alleged rape last month, the newspaper chose to use a selfie of Chambers in a bikini, pouting for the camera. Other media organization have followed suit. Chambers has tweeted examples of other stories that chose to use her selfies, seeming to make light of the case at hand.
Chambers is suing the police department for $50 million. Both officers had their guns and badges following the initial incident, and were suspended on Wednesday.
The cops maintain that it was consensual — but that’s part of the bigger problem here. As the Intercept noted, being detained by the police seriously affects how consent works, due to the great power imbalance involved. “Let us be clear: Someone in police custody cannot give consent, in any meaningful sense of the word, to the officer holding them,” wrote Natasha Lennard. But for some reason, New York state law doesn’t explicitly forbid sex between a police officer and someone they detain.
Under New York penal law, there can be no consensual sex between corrections officers and prisoners in their charge, nor between a patient committed to a hospital and those charged with their supervision. Yet there is no such law for the police. While, as the NYPD spokesperson told me, “it is against department policy to have sex on duty,” the law does not preclude consensual sex between an arresting officer and a person in their custody.
“There was zero consent,” David told the New York Post earlier this month. “The cops were over 6 feet tall. She’s very petite, like 5-2 and maybe 100 pounds. There’s nothing she could do.”
The laws around on-duty rape, the details in Chambers’ retelling of the night she was arrested, and the way that Hall and Martins’ attorneys are now attacking a teenage victim’s credibility through her social media posts make it clear that Hall and Martins likely assumed there would be no consequences for their behavior.
Cases of officers convicted of rape are few and far between. Cases of cops harassing and sexually assaulting women — and even getting promoted despite it — still abound. On Wednesday, the head of Miami’s police union was promoted, despite his racist and sexist views and a history of doxxing and harassing multiple women of color.