Until just last week, the official policy of the police department in Norfolk, Va., was to assume by default that claims of sexual assault were “unfounded.” Additionally, no written provisions existed in the department’s policies to ensure that rape victims are taken to a hospital and examined after an assault. According to the Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk’s police chief Mike Goldsmith was prompted to change the archaic law after one particular case involving a 22-year-old woman.
The woman came to the police and reported being attacked and sexually assaulted in her own home. But officers expressed skepticism of her story, and told her, “if we find out that you’re lying, this will be a felony charge.” They continued to press her, saying things like “you’re telling us a different story than you told … the other detectives,” and “this only happened hours ago. Why can’t you remember?” The verbal interrogation became too much for the frustrated woman, and she prematurely walked out of the interview.
Eight weeks later, serial rapist and diagnosed sexual sadist Roy Ruiz Loredo was arrested in Virginia Beach after trying to attack three women. Police matched his DNA to that collected from the Norfolk rape victim, and concluded that he was responsible for her attack as well.
Goldsmith apologized for mishandling the woman’s case and updated the department’s policy to avoid similar issues in the future. Rape crisis advocates will now be allowed to be present during interviews with victims, and detectives in the Special Crimes Division will be required to undergo training for rape trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder related to sexual assault.