A new controversial policy requires sexual assault and rape victims to undergo police background checks before they can receive services from the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center. Those services include rape kits or medical investigations into the criminal activity that was perpetrated against them.
The “AFAC Safety and Security Plan” says that “the client, and all those accompanying the client, will provide a name and date of birth for a background check in the NMJustice.org database.”
The policy further says that, “in cases where the client refuses to produce identifying information, the client will be directed to the appropriate off-site agency to seek the requested services.”
The bizarre policy has been around since 2007, but it has only been implemented and enforced since November. To date, it has received little-to-no national attention.
The problem is that the Albuquerque, New Mexico center provides medical and investigative services that simply are not offered anywhere else for victims of rape and sexual assault.
This includes basic medical investigations, rape kit test, DNA analysis and more. Critics of this law suggest that many will not come forward to report sexual assaults and rapes if they feel they maybe prosecuted for something.
Communications and Community Outreach Director for APD Celina Espinoza commented on this law, saying, “we want to ensure the center is a safe, secure place for everyone to receive vital help and services.”
“Staff are checking for existing restraining orders to ensure victims’ safety, for prior domestic violence-related charges, and for violent felonies,” she said, defending the police-endorsed law.
“The resulting information is not stored by anyone or anywhere; this is to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” she continued.
Prostitutes are the most vulnerable under this new policy. Between 70 and 95 percent of prostitutes report being physically assaulted. But under this new rule, few – if any – would come forward and risk arrest.
The law is not only anti-woman, it also affects male victims of rape and sexual assault.
A man going by the name “Mark,” reported to Matthew Reisen of the Daily Lobo, that he was was gang-raped back in 2005. He reported the sexual assault immediately after it happened. But if he had to submit to a background check, he says he would not have reported the crime.
“That is one of the more twisted things I’ve heard in a really long time. When somebody has been assaulted at that level, who are they to say somebody in trauma is dangerous?” he explained.
“The whole process of reporting is so deeply humiliating as it is: dealing with the police, dealing with the hospital staff, dealing with the SANE unit. Throwing more bullshit into it is just going to make it so much harder for people to say anything — I certainly wouldn’t have.”
The document that outlines this policy states, “APD will be made aware of the existence of any outstanding felony warrant by any visitor to the AFAC. APD will determine the best approach to addressing that situation.”
What this means is that even minor misdemeanor charges and late bill payments could be viewed as suspicious.
Anahi Rincon, case manager at Enlace Comunitario, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to eliminate domestic violence in the Latino immigrant community through prevention and intervention services,” opposes the new policy. Rincon notes that a client recently said that they would not come forward due to past-due bills which made them “very afraid” of police involvement.
(Article by Reagan Ali and Moreh B.D.K.)