Reporting sexual assault decreasing
In the past five years, the number of sexual assaults submitted to the FBI from the two police departments in Boulder have amounted to less than half of the count obtained by local women’s advocacy group Movement to End Sexual Assault.
Anne Tapp, an employee at the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence, said many women who have suffered sexual assaults come straight to organizations such as the Safehouse and MESA instead of reporting the incidents to police.
“Some of these women are alcohol or drug-dependent. Some are involved in prostitution,” Tapp said. “Others are undocumented or gay…these women won’t see the police as a responsive, respectful resource. Their fear is that they won’t be treated as respectfully as we might hope.”
Boulder Sexual Assault Statistics
Sexual assault statistics submitted yearly to the FBI from CUPD and Boulder PD
Primary and secondary victims served by MESA
Number of calls to the MESA hotline
Tapp said that if the criminal justice system was perfect, she would encourage all of the women who come to the Safehouse to file reports with police. As it is, Safehouse employees encourage each victim to do what they think is best for them.
“Our primary goal is to ensure safety,” Tapp said. “After that, we try to explore the hesitancy (to go to police).”
Fear of revictimization is another worry for some victims and keeps some women from going to the police.
A look at the statistics for sexual assaults in Boulder in the past five years suggests how many women are prevented from filing police reports because they fear going to the authorities.
As neither the Boulder Police Department nor the CU Police Department keep a separate set of statistics, their respective counts of rapes and aggravated assaults have been combined for the purposes of comparison.
MESA defines a primary victim as one who has been assaulted, and a secondary victim as a friend or family member calling on behalf of someone who has been assaulted.
Melody Wollgren, client services director at MESA, explained that serving a victim could mean a number of things ranging from providing crisis support or a referral, to a psychiatrist, to legal or medical advocacy.
“As you can see, our numbers took a big drop in 2003 and 2004,” Wollgren said. “At MESA, we attribute this to the negative media coverage of the victims in the Kobe Bryant case and the case involving the CU football recruits. Both of these cases occurred in Colorado and all of the victims in these cases were vilified in the media and portrayed in an extremely negative light.”
Wollgren said that MESA feels the negative coverage in the media of rape victims frightened many victims from coming forward, even to call the hotline. The numbers are just now starting to rise again.
These sets of numbers demonstrate that there is a large discrepancy between the number of police filed reports of sexual assaults and the number of sexual assaults that are not filed through the police.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Andrew Frankel at email@example.com.