*Former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw may face serial rape charges, but it looks like his 13 black female accusers are the ones on trial.
According to The Huffington Post, a sentiment voiced by the last woman to testify at the hearing, who was only 17 at the time of the alleged rape, summed up how the group felt in regards to another victim mentioning that she didn’t tell anyone about the alleged abuse from Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, because she’d “never been on the right side of the law.”
“What kind of police do you call on the police?” the last testifier asked.
Holtzclaw is accused of sexually assaulting the women while on duty. The 28-year-old faces a total of 36 counts, including sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and rape and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Post points out that the alleged assaults occurred over a seven month-period and was brought to the attention of investigators when one of the victims, who local media identified as a 57-year-old grandmother, came forward to report a sexual assault to police.
For the 13 accusers, the case is even more complicated considering that many of them have criminal records and substance abuse problems, a point that Holtzclaw’s attorney has used to attack the women’s credibility during the trial. As a result, the trial could come off as being more about the accusers than Holtzclaw, according to the Post, which noted the picture painted by the case.
Testimony from the victims included one woman alleging that Holtzclaw forced her to perform oral sex on him after handcuffing her to a hospital bed when she was high on PCP, while another woman testified that Holtzclaw raped her after he ran her name and discovered she had city warrants. That incident, she said, occurred when Holtzclaw drove her to an abandoned school.
Although high-profile cases involving black men and boys have shined a light on police brutality in recent months, the Huffington Post acknowledges that Holtzclaw’s case has flown under the radar of national media exposure.
“It’s because they’re black women, they’re poor women,” OKC Artists For Justice co-founder and activist Grace Franklin, who has been organizing support for the victims, told the publication, adding that Holtzclaw’s defense attorney was very aggressive when cross-examining the accusers and making efforts to destroy their credibility by constantly bringing up the women’s criminal records and history of drug use to the jury.
Despite this, Franklin remained optimistic about the trial’s outcome in light of physical evidence and testimony presented that included DNA evidence.
“We want this case to be a warning for this country to wake up and deal with the rape and sexual assault epidemic that’s happening right now,” she said.
As for the lack of more outrage over the case, Salamishah Tillet, co-founder of the nonprofit group A Long Walk Home mentioned that compared to other crimes, sexual violence isn’t taken as seriously.
“The fact that these women were sexually assaulted by a police officer fits squarely within a narrative of racial inequality and racial violence, but we don’t call it that because they were women,” she told the Post. “They are not the perfect victims, because that doesn’t exist.”
Closing arguments for the case are scheduled to take place today (Dec. 7) as it will be decided by an all-white jury. For more on the Holtzclaw case, click here.