September 26, 2016
RAPE REPORTS INCREASE BY ALMOST 5%
The annual Crime in Maine numbers were released on Monday, in which officials noted a 4.8% increase in rape reports to law enforcement from 2014 to 2015. There were 373 rape reports to law enforcement in 2014; reports increased to 390 in 2015.
Experts in sexual violence prevention and response note, however, that despite the increase, the underlying prevalence is still greater.
“Rape is the most underreported violent crime in the United States,” said Cara Courchesne, Communications Director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA). “Reports to law enforcement are merely the tip of the iceberg. Approximately 14,000 Mainers experience this crime each year.* Clearly, there’s a huge gap between the number of cases reported and the number of victimizations.”
Given the extreme personal nature of sexual assault, many victims hesitate to report because they worry that their case may go public or that their identity will be released. Victims also worry they may not be believed. Research has shown that misconceptions about the extent of false reporting have direct, negative consequences on survivors and may contribute to why many victims don’t report sexual assault. Therefore, Courchesne continued, the increase in reports may be a good sign.
“This may signal that we’re moving in the right direction,” says Courchesne. “We’ve seen a significant change in how people respond to sexual violence. Take the Stanford case, for example. There was significant public support for the victim and the disgust at the perpetrator’s light sentence was palpable. The more victims and survivors feel supported and are able to report, the more we can do to address sexual violence and hold offenders accountable.”
However, she notes, it’s not up to victims to create that environment. “We still have work to do. That’s on us as a Maine community,” she said.
If you or someone who you know has experienced sexual violence, please call the free confidential statewide, 24-hour sexual assault crisis and support line at 1-800-871-7741. You will be connected to a local advocate.
*The Muskie School of Public Service calculated this number from the survey data for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and will not be found in the actual report.
Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault
(o) 207 626 0034
(m) 207 577 4676
Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Line: 1-800-871-7741 (TTY: 1-888-458-5599)