BDSM Gone Bad: Reporting Non-Consensual "Play" and Rape to the APD
(Austin, TX) For the 20 plus years that I've been involved with BDSM and Leather groups, the community wisdom has been that "we police our own." But as I've come to realize, we are not equipped or educated to handle serious crimes like rape, sexual battery, and assault alone. When victims in our community report these crimes to their local organization, the most that group leaders can do is ban the offenders from their events. While that is an important measure in limiting their access to potential victim, the predators can move on to other groups, found their own, or cull their next victims from dating sites like CollarMe.com or social networks like FetLife.
Banishing the predators is not good enough. We need policing by professionals. Only the local police and our court system can adequately address crimes like rape and assault in our communities.
In February 2015 I sat down with three representatives of the Austin Police Department to address non-consensual sex and assault in the Austin BDSM and Leather communities. They assured me that APD takes all reports of rape and assault very seriously --- whether or not the victims are sex workers, wives, bottoms, subs, or slaves and whether they are women or men. Bottoms, submissives, and slaves can be raped by their Tops, Doms, and Masters. Sexual assault is sexual assault regardless of who perpetrates the crime and who the victim is. In American society there are the mistaken beliefs that "you can't rape a prostitute," that "husbands can't rape their wives," or that only women are raped. The APD does not agree.
Over the past 10 years, APD has significantly improved the level of service they provide to victims by holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes and ensuring better service to victims. Participating in the Making A Difference Project and working as part of the nationally recognized Austin-Travis County Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team (SARRT), the APD has successfully prosecuted rape case where husbands have raped their wives and johns have raped prostitutes.
APD is aware of and understands the inner workings of the BDSM and Leather communities and how consent figures in our relationships and play. In fact, the APD has investigated and is investigating allegations of crimes within our local BDSM community.
We can assist them in getting the predators out of our community and off the streets by reporting their crimes. Most rapists are serial offenders. They go from victim to victim and they won't stop until they are stopped and incarcerated. And they won't be stopped unless their crimes are reported and investigated. Even if an investigation might not immediately lead to prosecution and conviction, the APD can identify a pattern of serial offenses that can lead to future arrests and prevent future offenses.
Unfortunately in the U.S, about 68 percent of rapes are never reported (according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.) Added to that there is a stigma attached to consensual sadomasochism. But we need to report the crimes in order to stop the perpetrators.
The APD web site states "We encourage victims to report the sexual assault even if it is past the statute of limitations. Your case cannot go forward with prosecution, but it is important to document the assault and the perpetrators who commit them."
The victim can contact the APD Sex Crimes Unit directly by calling 911 as soon as possible.
In addition, the victim can request that a civilian liaison from the Victim Services division to address the victim's psychological and emotional needs. The liaison can accompany the victim during the interview with the investigator and the forensic examination.
The Victim Services division provides crisis intervention, counseling, advocacy, criminal justice support, assistance with Crime Victims Compensation, education, information, and referrals.
If a victim is unable or unready to cooperate with law enforcement in the immediate aftermath of the sexual assault they have the option --- for 120 hours afterward --- to go to hospital and ask to undergo a forensic examination. By law all Texas hospitals with emergency rooms will be required to have staff trained in at least basic collection of forensic evidence from sexual assault victims. In some hospitals the examinations are performed by certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE.) Saint David's hospital has certified nurses available full time. In addition, Safeplace (formerly the Austin Rape Crisis Center) is working on providing a free, secluded 24/7 medical forensic exam site called "Tiny House." It will be staffed with Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and counselors.
With the victim's consent the collected evidence can be used in a subsequent investigation and trial. But the victim can forgo reporting the crime to the police. The Department of Public Safety will store the collected evidence for two years. Victim has up to 2 years to decide if she/he wants to proceed with the investigation, so law enforcement can retrieve the kit from storage. Otherwise the victim does not have to request destruction. The state's Attorney General's office will pay for the examination whether or not a victim decides to pursue an investigation.
Even after reporting the crime, the victim can decline to prosecute. The victim doesn't have to make a decision until further along in the investigative process after being given all of the information needed to make an informed decision.
If the victim is concerned about privacy, a pseudonym can be requested for all official documentation during the trail. The victim's real name will be recorded in a confidential document and --- since our constitution guarantees that the defendant in a trial has a right to face his accuser --- the defense attorney will have access the victim's real name. Otherwise there is no public record of the victim's real identity.
It's important to note that a forensic examination of the victim can only be performed in the 120 hours (five days) following the crime. However the crime can be reported at any time --- up to 10 years after --- whether or not a forensic examination occurred.
We hope that by being better educated on the law and by working with our local police department, we can better address crimes committed against members of our community.
If you have any further questions, concerns, or ideas on this topic, please write me. I will do my best to research and answer your emails or direct you to an authoritative resource with the answer.
APD Sex Crimes Division
Our motto is "We Believe," because we understand the bias and prejudice victims can experience due to common misperceptions about the realities of sexual assault. We encourage anyone who has been, or thinks they have been sexually assaulted to report it immediately to the Austin Police Department.
APD Victim Services Division
Created in 1981, the long held mission of the Victim Services Division of the Austin Police Department is to respond to crime victim's psychological and emotional needs.
The Non-Report Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (NRSAFE) Program created by House Bill 2626 became law in July 2009.
The Start by Believing Campaign
Start by Believing is a public awareness campaign designed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) to change the way we respond to rape and sexual assault in our communities. Make a personal commitment on their web site to "start by believing."
AIDS Services of Austin
The mission of AIDS Services of Austin is to enhance the health and well being of the community and people affected by HIV and AIDS.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
877-739-3895 Toll Free
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
SAFEPLACE (formerly the Austin Rape Crisis Center/Center for Battered Women)
Sexual Assault Legal Hotline from the Texas Advocacy Project
Texas Advocacy Project is a non-profit organization working directly with victims, shelters, law enforcement agencies, and courts across Texas to deliver effective legal services to Texans in need. Our services are free of charge and provide the type of long-term solutions that break the cycle of violence for thousands of Texans each year. We accept clients without regard to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or county of residence.
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault
TAASA committed to ending sexual violence in Texas through education, prevention and advocacy
Waterloo Counseling Center (WCC)
A leading provider of affordable high-quality counseling services for Austin and the surrounding area. Waterloo provides effective and affordable counseling with an expertise in gender, sexual and cultural diversity.
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