Class Action Lawsuit Aims to Change Investigations into Austin Sexual Assault Cases

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Austin Police Department face a federal class action lawsuit filed by three Austin women who accuse the departments of violating the constitutional rights of women and discrimination for the way they handle sexual assault cases.

According to the lawsuit, while more than 1,000 women report a sexual assault to Austin police each year, the number of cases taken to trial annually remains in the single digits.

The lawsuit accuses Travis County DA Margaret Moore of making statements that acquaintance rapes are really more “traumatic occurrences” than criminal acts.  Moore has also indicated that the testing of the backlog of thousands of rape kits in Austin is for “informational purposes” and not for prosecution.

The Austin Police Department’s sexual assault unit at one time had a wall with photos of victims whose claims had been “debunked” by officers as “trophies of their investigations which determined allegations by purported victims were unsubstantiated,” states the lawsuit filing.

Additionally, the lawsuit notes that while women make up 91 percent of sexual assault victims, the only case taken to trial in 2017 involved a male victim.  In that instance, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and the DA were aware of allegations by multiple women in previous years against the same perpetrator, but those cases were never prosecuted.

“It is shocking that the vast majority of women who survive sexual assault are provided so little protection or recourse, and are essentially blamed for the refusal of law enforcement to seek justice in their cases,” says Jennifer Ecklund of Thompson & Knight and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Women go to authorities in order to seek justice and to protect other women, but the policies and practices of law enforcement instead re-traumatize survivors while allowing their attackers to walk free.”

For more information, please contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or

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