NYPD launches sex assault outreach program to urge victims to come forward

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The New York City Police Department announced Friday morning that more changes are coming to the Special Victims Division.

NYPC Commissioner James O'Neill unveiled a new outreach program asking sex assault victims to come forward, even if they're old allegations.

"It's very difficult to come forward," Deputy Police Commissioner Susan Herman said. "It's very hard to know you're going to relive every detail of the rape or the sexual assault. You have to believe it's worthwhile to come forward."

Police officials announced a new social media campaign, along with ads on buses and subways reaching out to victims.

The development comes after a spate of controversy at the special unit. The New York City Department of Investigations released a report recently criticizing the unit for not having enough detectives and for what it calls poor training.

Also, the New York Daily News recently reported the Special Victims Division chief donated several thousand dollars to Donald Trumps presidential campaign just after the revelation of a tape in which Trump boasted of grabbing and assaulting women.

"Everybody's got their First Amendment rights, and they can contribute to the candidate of their choice," said O'Neill, though he added, "The Special Victims Division is unique, and investigators have to maintain the confidence of the survivors of sexual assault."

Also, O'Neill announced earlier this week he was boosting the number of detectives within Special Victims by 20, including 16 who would look at old, cold cases.

The NYPD has seen a dramatic uptick in the number of rapes and sexual assaults in New York City.

"We consistently see, in rapes, when you look back in time for an entire year, we see 15 to 20 percent of the rapes reported to the NYPD did not occur in the year that they are reported," NYPD Crime Control Bureau Chief Demot Shea said.

In the first three months of this year, the NYPD has seen a 39 percent increase in the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults.

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