Police want more victims to report rapes

Police want more victims to report rapes
In this Dec. 19, 2012 photo, Ashland police Chief Terry Holderness browses a new website that will encourage sexual assault victims to report attacks once it goes live in January in Ashland, Ore. (AP Photo/The Medford Mail Tribune, Julia Moore)

ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) — Police in Ashland say most rapes aren't reported to authorities, so the department plans a campaign to encourage more victims to come forward.

The department plans a "You Have Options" campaign beginning Jan. 1 to let victims know it has adopted a victim-friendly philosophy, the Ashland Daily Tidings reports.

Chief Terry Holderness says that while Ashland has relatively low rates for aggravated assault, robbery and homicide, it has a relatively high rate of sexual assault. He says that's frequently the case in college towns.

"Only 15 to 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported," Holderness said. "Eighty to 85 percent, we never know about. That's a horrible failure rate."

Detective Carrie Hull said some traditional police work includes asking victims soon whether they want to press charges. The Ashland Department doesn't ask for a quick decision, and it does collect and keep evidence even if the victim doesn't want to press charges. That way, evidence and the opportunity to identify perpetrators are not lost, Hull said.

"Too often, victims are told what is good for them. We identify options. We never make them choose right away," she said. "The victim controls how much they participate."

Among other actions, the department trains bartenders to spot predatory behavior and starts sexual assault awareness training in the middle school years in Ashland.

Holderness said one part of the department's effort deals with young victims 15 to 17.

When a sexual assault occurs, the situation often involves sexual activity, alcohol or drugs, and teens are afraid their parents will find out what they were doing, Holderness said.

Police can't do formal interviews of sexual assault victims who are under 18 without a parent, but they can help victims get medical help and connect them with advocacy and sexual assault services groups, Hull said.

"This is our only chance of stopping victimization at that age group," Hull said. "This gets them in the door."

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Information from: The Ashland Daily Tidings, http://www.dailytidings.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press