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David HoltzclawSexual predators frequently seek out positions of trust to obtain access to victims; many are in positions of care-giving, power or mentorship, such as priests, scoutmasters, coaches, and teachers. These positions provide perpetrators with access to potential victims, and also frequently operate to insulate the perpetrators from facing justice.

Many of the individuals we meet here at Crew Janci have not disclosed to law enforcement, parents, teachers, or anyone else due to fear that they will not be believed, or that the perpetrator will be deemed more credible than they are, and sometimes, victims choose not to disclose to law enforcement, parents, or teachers because the person who harmed them was also a parent, teacher, or law enforcement officer. Oftentimes, the already-injurious nature of abuse is compounded by feelings of isolation and betrayal when the perpetrator masked himself or herself in a cloak of public trust.

Recently, Oklahoma City patrolman David Holtzclaw used his position of power and trust to rape and sexually assault at least thirteen women, and likely more. Holtzclaw engaged in the same predatory behavior all perpetrators employ – he chose victims he thought would not be believed, and placed himself in a position to reinforce his ability to victimize more people.

Holtzclaw’s crimes constitute a shocking example of the precise type of abuses that many perpetrators engage in, and which many victims are forced to suffer. However, this outcome of this case differs significantly from the vast majority of others, for in this case, the perpetrator was made to face justice, and will be forced to confront that reality every day for the rest of his life.

During the month-long prosecution, thirteen women testified that Holtzclaw raped and/or sexually assaulted them while acting within the scope of his authority and power as a police officer. Throughout the trial, and in spite of the overwhelming evidence, Holtzclaw emphatically maintained his innocence. The jurors, however, were not so easily fooled: based on the evidence, the jury found Holtzclaw guilty of eighteen counts including first-degree rape. Based on the egregiousness of Holtzclaw’s conduct, and the severity of the charges, Judge Timothy Henderson sentenced Holtzclaw to 263 years in prison for all charges, to be served consecutively.

As discussed above, victims often suffer through their trauma in isolation and silence. This silence is compounded by their lack of faith that they will be believed by authorities. Unfortunately, insensitive and outdated law enforcement responses often confirm victims’ distrust in the system, or verify their belief that they cannot trust the criminal justice system to protect them any more than the perpetrator who hurt them to begin with. Even more worrisome is the fact that Holtzclaw is far from an isolated case: an Associated Press investigation in 2015 revealed that over a six-year period approximately 1,000 law enforcement officers in the United States lost their licenses due to sex crimes or sexual misconduct. Further, those are only the incidents that were reported and resulted in discipline. The actual numbers are likely much higher.

In the face of these egregious and daily occurring breaches of trust, one case where the perpetrator is sentenced and jailed will not automatically restore the faith and trust of all victims, especially those have been betrayed by the very officers tasked with ensuring their protection. However, this one case does provide a ray of sunshine for those victims who hold out hope that the criminal justice system will work to catch, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these heinous sex crimes. In that sense, this conviction and sentence is a victory for not only Holtzclaw’s victims, but for survivors across the nation. We, too, hope that one day our criminal justice system will be able to instill faith in all sexual violence survivors – and more importantly – that the system will live up to that promise of faith.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, please call us today at 1-888-407-0224 or use our confidential online form. We will treat you with discretion and respect.

You are not alone. We are here to help.

Andria Seo

Andria Seo is an Associate Attorney at Crew Janci LLP. Andria is a graduate of the New York University School of Law. During law school, she worked with the National Center for Youth Law, the Legal Aid Society, and the NYCLU. Prior to joining the team at Crew Janci LLP, Andria advocated for vulnerable children and their families as a staff attorney at Partnership for Children’s Rights, a nonprofit based in New York City. Andria also previously worked assisting in the representation of victims of a terrorist attack in civil suits. Andria moved to Portland in 2016 and joined Crew Janci LLP in 2017. She is admitted to practice in Oregon and New York