Were You Sexually Abused By a Police Officer?
Ever drive by a convenience store and see a police car parked outside? Cops love hot coffee, fast service and the later hours offered at most convenience stores. The owners and employees of those stations like having cops around because it deters loitering and robberies. But for one female employee of a Thornton’s station in Louisville, the presence of LMPD officer Robert Neff was anything but welcome.
It’s doesn’t happen often but there are bad cops out there who use their power to molest others. And it isn’t always suspects that become victims. In the post we look at what victims of sexual abuse and harassment by police officers can do if sexually abused or molested by a police officer. But first, the story of Officer Neff.
“Emily” was an employee of Thorntons. (“Emily” is a pseudonym, we never print a victim’s real name unless already in the public domain or with permission.)
In March 2020, LMPD Officer Robert Neff was a frequent visitor at the Thornton’s station. He was even dating a clerk there. While hanging out, on duty and in uniform, Neff set his sights on another clerk, Emily.
According to Emily’s complaint and information gathered during a subsequent criminal case, on an overly long visit to the station on March 10th or 11th, Neff asked Emily for a kiss. His advances were unwanted and she told him so. That should have been enough for an ordinary person but Neff wasn’t ready to give up.
According to her complaint, Neff took it a step farther and asked to have sex with her. He then
“followed [her] into a back room at Thorntons and put his hand into her shirt and around her bra area and ran his hands up and down her body, including the inside of her legs in a sexually suggestive or inappropriate manner. These advances were unwanted and without Taylor’s consent.”
Media reports say he also tied the woman’s arms behind her back and then kissed her without consent and asked her to remove clothing.
When the ordeal ended – Neff was in the station for 2 hours - Emily told another officer about the incident who then reported to higher ups in the department. After the internal affairs division said they believed Emily, Neff resigned from the force. He was subsequently charged with the crimes of official misconduct and sexual abuse.
Neff pled guilty to two charges and was given a lenient sentence. He received a six month suspended sentence and ordered to serve two years on conditional release.
Neff’s criminal conviction didn’t end things for Emily. On February 10th she filed a federal civil rights case against Neff and the Louisville Metro Police Department. Her suit seeks monetary damages for the physical and emotional pain she suffered and continues to suffer.
What Should I Do When a Police Officer Sexually Abuses Me?
Everyone has heard horror stories of women pulled over on lonely highways and raped. Thankfully those incidents are very rare. Our first tip is that if you are being pulled over and are afraid, call 911 and explain your situation. In most cases, you can confirm that it is a legit officer that is trying to stop you. You should also stop in a well-lit place; a busy parking lot is best.
Not every case of abuse takes place on the highway. We are aware of officers molesting suspects inside patrol cars and in police stations. And Emily’s case demonstrates that you can even be molested in your own place of employment.
If you are assaulted or molested, it is important to report the incident as soon as it is safe to do so. We recommend calling us or a lawyer well versed in sexual assault cases. Reporting to internal affairs (sometimes called the “professional standards bureau” ) and / or the local prosecutor’s office is usually better than just telling another officer.
In sexual harassment cases, simply telling a suitor – whether or not he or she is a cop – that you aren’t interested in their advances is usually enough. Had Neff asked for a kiss and simply went away when told “no,” there probably wouldn’t be a case. Obviously, that didn’t happen here. If a cop – or anyone else – won’t take no for an answer or things become physical, get help. You don’t have to say no multiple times nor can anyone touch you inappropriately.
Emily’s case against Neff will likely be decided by a jury unless there is a settlement. Getting any money out of Neff could prove difficult, however. Unemployed sex offenders typically don’t have many assets or great employment prospects. The deep pockets in this case are the Louisville Metro City County government.
Police departments can be held responsible for the negligent supervision and negligent hiring of their officers. We know that Neff was reprimanded at least twice in the short two years he was with the department. Media reports say he was also investigated for a domestic battery and enrolled in a batterer’s program.
Discovery will reveal whether there were other citizen complaints, how those complaints were handled, what his employment background check revealed and whether the department should have fired him before Emily was abused. That he was on duty and in uniform at the time of the incidents certainly helps her case.
Sexual abuse cases against law enforcement officers are rare but they do happen. They also happen in our in our jails, prisons and youth detention facilities. Often victims are afraid to come forward because the offender’s status and power as an officer. This is especially true when the offender is a prison guard or doctor.
If you are approached by a police officer and sexually assaulted or molested, make sure to get help immediately. Ignoring the problem usually doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it often gets worse. Not sure who to contact? You can always consult with us. Even if you decide not seek money damages for your ordeal, we can help you properly report the misconduct.
The genus for this post came from our sister sexual harassment and misconduct site. To learn more, visit the sexual assault survivors’ information page on that site. You need not be sexually assaulted in order to claim damages. Unwanted touching and kissing are also illegal and can entitle you to receive compensation for your emotional suffering and humiliation.
Ready to see if you have a case or simply want to talk to a lawyer about your situation? There is no obligation and no fee for consultation. If we do take your case, we do so on a contingency fee basis meaning you don’t pay unless we win. Our jail abuse lawyers and network can be reached online, by email at [hidden email] or by phone at 866-836-4684.
Cases considered nationwide. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential.
Brian and his handpicked team have a long history of pursuing sex offenders. Brian is a former police officer, prosecutor, and board member of the Family Violence Project. He is also a former volunteer with the Sexual Assault Crisis and Assault Center. Feel more comfortable speaking with a female lawyer? Just ask.