Federal prosecutors in New York and Washington have opened a civil rights investigation into the New York Police Department’s special victims division and its handling of sex-abuse cases, officials said on Thursday.

Investigators will examine allegations that include “failing to conduct basic investigative steps and instead shaming and abusing survivors and re-traumatizing them during investigations,” according to a Justice Department news release. They will investigate the division’s policies, procedures and training and evaluate interactions among officers, victims and witnesses.

“The department received information alleging deficiencies at S.V.D. that have persisted for more than a decade, depriving survivors and the public of the prompt, thorough and effective investigations needed to protect public safety,” the Justice Department said in the release.

Some victims have argued for years that the police failed to adequately investigate their accusations. Four years ago, the city’s Department of Investigation found that police leadership had given priority to rapes in which the perpetrators were strangers over those in which assailants knew their victims. Some detectives also treated victims poorly, the department concluded, handling their cases insensitively or dismissing their stories.

“Victims of sex crimes deserve the same rigorous and unbiased investigations of their cases that the N.Y.P.D. affords to other categories of crime,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in the news release. “Relentless and effective pursuit of perpetrators of sexual violence, unburdened by gender stereotypes or differential treatment, is essential to public safety.”



This story originally Appeared on Nytimes.com