Violence Against Women

Oklahoma City Police Officer Will Go to Trial for 36 Counts of Sexual Assault

After a two-day preliminary hearing, an Oklahoma state court judge ordered that Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police officer, will stand trial for sexually assaulting 13 African-American women while on duty.

via Paul L. McCord Jr.
via Paul L. McCord Jr.

Holtzclaw is charged with 36 counts of sexual assault, including six counts of first-degree rape, and multiple counts of forcible oral sodomy, sexual battery, and indecent exposure.

During the hearing, all 13 women gave testimony against the police officer, who is alleged to have used his power as an officer to commit these crimes. One woman testified that she was forced to perform sexual acts: “It was either that or the county jail.” Another woman testified, “He was an officer. And I was scared. And I knew he could hurt me.”

A 17-year old girl also offered testimony that Holtzclaw, after threatening her with arrest, pulled down her shorts and forced her to have sex with him on the front porch of her mother’s home. “What am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop,” she testified. “I was afraid of what could happen to me if I was snitching.” Prosecutors introduced DNA evidence found inside of Holtzclaw’s pants matching that of the girl.

Another woman testified that Holtzclaw stopped her as she was walking through her neighborhood. The 52-year-old said the officer put his hands under her blouse, and when she resisted, he put his hand in her pants. After this, she said Holtzclaw told her, “OK, you don’t have anything in there. You can go.”

Police began investigating Holtzclaw after one of the survivors reported an assault in June. The other 12 women had not reported Holtzclaw until they were contacted by detectives investigating the June assault. Many of the women feared reprisal or that they would not be believed.

“Who are they going to believe?” the 17-year old told the court. “It’s my word against his. He’s a police officer.”

In their written testimony to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Black Women’s Blueprint referenced the Holtzclaw case as symptomatic of a larger pattern of practice among law enforcement officials in the US that most often plays out in communities of color. In their report, they highlighted that despite the fact that black women and racially-mixed black women are more often the victims of rape than their white counterparts, they are much less likely to get a conviction for a sex crime.

Holtclaw has pleaded not guilty. He remains out on $609,000 bail. During the hearing on Tuesday, protesters outside of the courthouse called on the court to rescind bail.

Media Resources: Associated Press 11/18/14, 11/17/14; The Oklahoman 11/17/14; Feminist Newswire 11/14/14

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