April 12, 2005 – Posted at 5:18 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO -- A staggering number of women are sexually assaulted every day but a group in Region 8 is working to change the statistics.
In the United States, 1.3 women over the age of 18 are forcibly raped every minute, 78 per hour and 1,871 per day. It may sound like staggering numbers, but sexual assault is one of the leading “under” reported crimes.
April is sexual assault awareness month but police and rape advocates are working to change those statistics
The Bureau of Justice reports that from 1992 to 2000, only 36% of rapes were reported to the police. And it's the fear of being re-victimized that is keeping most women silent.
“Just about anyone can be the victim of a sex crime,” said Sgt. Stephen McDaniel of the Jonesboro Police Department.
“The harm is not only physical, but also very psychologically damaging as well,” said Vicki Gestring, Executive Director of the Woman’s Crisis Center of Northeast Arkansas.
In Arkansas, one out of every eight women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.
“Over 80% of rapes occur with someone that the victim knows,” said Gestring, “One of the popular myths about rape is that it is always a stranger in a dark ally that comes out of no where and that is simply not true.”
But getting women to report sexual assault is one of the biggest challenges police face.
“The people we have that investigate sexual assaults have been trained to be sensitive to the victims needs and so hopefully we feel like we can come in and report these sex crimes to us,” said Sgt. McDaniel.
The Woman's Crisis center in Jonesboro is available to victims 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We also emphasize to them that it is not their fault, sexual assault is never their fault,” said Gestring.
But staying safe starts with being aware. McDaniel says one of the smartest things to do is travel in pairs and never go anywhere by yourself, especially when you've been drinking.
“Look around. Stop before you go out into a dark parking lot, have your keys ready for you before you get to your car, before you get home,” said McDaniel, “Just take a good look before you walk into an unknown situation.”