‘My whole family got ruined’
An NYPD domestic violence officer says she spent four years in a hellish environment where she was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by her partner and another cop while her superiors turned a blind eye to her pleas for help, the Daily News has learned.
In a bombshell notice of claim filed with the city, former Police Officer Maria Mendez said she found herself in a never-ending cycle of abuse, where male officers at Harlem’s 32nd Precinct strung her out on prescription pain killers, then threatened to tell her bosses about her opioid abuse if she didn’t have sex with them.
If she protested, the officers would beat and rape her, the married mother of four told The News in an interview.
Mendez says her only way out was to quit the department, which she did in January.
“My whole family got ruined,” said the 14-year veteran, breaking down in tears. “I couldn’t take it anymore. They damaged my ear. My face was all damaged. My kids were suffering too much.”
Besides the rapes, which are outlined in excruciating detail, the notice of claim filed with the City Comptroller’s office alleges a laundry list of appalling frat house behavior that includes highly sexualized comments toward women cops, drinking on the job, male officers betting each other to drink breast milk pumped by a woman cop for her newborn and officers maliciously summonsing businesses they didn’t like.
Her attorney, Eric Sanders, plans to file a $90 million lawsuit against the city in the coming months.
In the 50-page document, Mendez said her patrol partner of several years and another cop in the 32nd Precinct repeatedly raped her and forced her to perform sexual favors. She also names a former FDNY medic turned firefighter, who she alleges sold her prescription pain killers that he had taken from overdose victims.
Between 2014 and 2019, the two officers “plied her with alcohol, stolen opioids and MDMA, aka Molly, which they sold to her, then under physical and psychological threat, forced her to perform deviant sexual acts including anal, oral and vaginal sex inside department facilities, vehicles and other locations,” the notice of claim states.
The NYPD said Mendez never filed official complaints against the officers mentioned in her notice of claim, and the FDNY said no complaints were filed against the firefighter.
The Daily News is withholding their names because they have not been criminally or departmentally charged.
All three are still employed by their respective departments and are on active duty. Repeated attempts to reach them, which included phone calls, emails and visits to the cops’ homes, were unsuccessful.
Mendez said her fellow cops threatened to out her as an addict if she reported them to her superiors. When she finally did seek help, her superiors, some of whom were women, shrugged off her claims, accusing her of being a slut, she said.
“(One woman lieutenant) told me it was all my fault,” Mendez said. “She didn’t care.”
An NYPD spokeswoman said if Mendez had reported her alleged abuse to the department, an investigation would have been launched. The department is now reviewing her notice of claim and will “initiate any appropriate action,” the spokeswoman said.
“The NYPD urges anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault to file a police report so we can perform a comprehensive investigation and offer support and services to survivors,” the spokeswoman said.
Mendez worked as a domestic violence officer for the 32nd Precinct before she went on maternity leave with her fourth child. When her leave was over, she was put on regular patrol.
When she ran out of her prescription painkillers but was still in pain following her Caesarian section, her new partner procured some prescription pills for her, she said.
“He was the one who first started giving me the pills,” Mendez said. “He was the one who told me I wouldn’t get addicted. I was not seeing how they were deteriorating my health.”
The cop assured her that if she was given a random drug test, he would cover for her. “He said he could get me a prescription (for the painkillers) because he used to work in a pharmacy,” she said.
Then he started making demands of her, she claims.
The cop allegedly began making inappropriate comments like, “Is it true that women reach their sexual prime after the age of 30?” and talked about arranging a threesome between Mendez and another woman.
One day, her partner allegedly said he needed a picture of her naked to show it to another woman who may be interested in having sex with them, even though Mendez never consented to it. When she said no, she says her partner became violent.
“He grabbed me and pulled me by my vest, telling me, ‘Stop f----- playing, go the f--- upstairs and send me the picture,’” Mendez recounted. “I went up to the female locker room crying.”
When she went to the locker room, she remembered confiding in another woman officer, who she said actually encouraged her to take the photo.
“She was like, ‘Girl, get over it,’” Mendez said. “She then took out a plastic Tropicana bottle and put some Vodka in with the juice and told me to have some.”
“He’s just being fresh,” the cop told her, she recalled. “It’s just a picture.”
She ultimately sent the cop a photo of her in her bra.
“When I gave it to him, I told him, ‘You just ruined me.’ He just punched me in the side and said, ‘Get over it,’” she said.
Armed with the photo, her partner began demanding sexual favors from her, Mendez said. If she wouldn’t do what he said, he threatened to out her as a drug addict and send the photo to her husband, she said.
The alleged rapes and sexual abuse went on for months in the stationhouse, in her personal vehicle, in the precinct parking lot or in the squad car as they parked under the Macombs Dam Bridge or near the West Side Highway, the notice of claim states.
When the two had to go to traffic court, her partner allegedly demanded they also go to hotels in Queens and have sex. Mendez told The News that after a while she offered to pay with her credit card so she could have a record as evidence of the attacks.
She said she also took photos of bruises she claimed were caused by her attacker, several of which her lawyer shared with The News.
She said she kept some of the clothes she wore during the attacks, which she claims are stained with DNA from her attackers.
Her partner was eventually transferred out of the 32nd Precinct, but Mendez said he kept an iron grip on her, demanding that she check in with him every day on the phone and meet up with him from time to time to have sex. Also joining the mix was her partner’s friend, who worked in the 32nd Precinct and demanded the same sexual arrangement, Mendez said.
Finally, on January 18, Mendez started taking back her life. After meeting at a Queens hotel, her former partner beat her and choked her until she was unconscious, Mendez said.
When he left the hotel room, she broke down crying and called her husband.
She resigned from the department the next day, asking a relative who she said is a state trooper to go with her to the 32nd Precinct stationhouse so she could clean out her locker.
She and her lawyer did not want relatives interviewed because they want to minimize their involvement.
Mendez is currently in recovery.
“I’m relieved, but I’m ashamed I didn’t get out sooner,” she said. “Every day I blame myself.”
Her attorney, Eric Sanders, said Mendez’s story shows that cops can become victims of rape and sexual abuse.
“Police officers are people just like everybody else,” Sanders said. “There is no way to predict how she could have responded, as with all victims of abuse. Whether you are a police officer or not, you can become a victim of an abuser and not see it happening until it’s too late.”
Mendez said she hopes her lawsuit will encourage other women cops who are suffering as she did to come forward.
“I hope it brings more women out so they can speak up about what is going on, whether they are getting raped or getting harassed or getting retaliated against,” she said. “I don’t know if (other women) realize how badly they are getting abused or if they are so numb to it that they just think it’s normal to be treated this way,” she said.
“I really believe that if they see how they are getting mistreated and opened their eyes to it, they would put a stop to it.”