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Students protest police handling of rape victim

see video here.

Approximately 30 USF students turned out Thursday morning at the Orient Road Jail to protest the treatment of a fellow student who was arrested after she reported being raped to Tampa police Saturday during Gasparilla.

Led by senior Ali Hall, chair for the Feminist Student Alliance, students stood on Orient Road holding signs with slogans stating “No matter what! Protect a woman’s health,” “And you wonder why women don’t report rape,” and “Health care first!”

“We’re here to demonstrate our opposition and let everyone know we are listening,” Hall said. “If you are a victim of rape, no matter what you’ve done, you deserve health care. It’s a traumatizing event, and no one deserves to go through the treatment that this woman went through.”

Other members of FSA felt the same way.”I’m here because I’m horrified that they would be more concerned with some old money that isn’t even connected than something as serious as rape,” Vanessa Ruiz said.

Stephanie – a student who said she was also a victim of rape – said she was there to support women who need to overcome their fear and report rape.

“I want to see some justice,” said Elenor Cecil of the Tampa National Organization of Women. “I want to see some reprimands of the arresting officer and the sergeant who approved the arrest. We have a lot of questions. Was a rape kit available? Was there any counseling offered? There are a lot of issues we need to look at and talk about.”

The protest is in reaction to the Tampa Police Department’s treatment of a 21-year-old USF student who reported being raped near the intersection of Howard Avenue and West Swann after attending Gasparilla Saturday afternoon. After calling police and being taken to a nurse to be examined, police discovered a felony warrant and arrested her.

Tampa Police chief Steve Hogue issued a written statement Thursday, announcing that policy will be amended.

“The officers in this instance did not violate departmental policy. However, it became clear that our procedures did not provide supervisors with discretionary oversight,” the release said. “We have amended our policy so that shift commanders have the authority to review circumstances surrounding incidents involving victims of violent crime and make a final decision that appropriately balances compassion and duty.”

Hogue also expressed concern about the way the officers handled the case.

“When I learned that the victim of a sexual battery was arrested on an outstanding warrant, I was very concerned that our policy did not allow a greater degree of discretionary latitude. It is imperative that we focus on an individual as a victim first and foremost, dealing with any outstanding felony charges at a later and more appropriate time,” the release said.