Sexual assaults rise, as other crimes fall - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Sexual assaults rise, as other crimes fall

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While the number of homicides, assaults and robberies decreased, sexual assaults jumped nearly 25 percent in Madison in 2012.

"The big picture is our crime numbers dropped 3.4 percent when compared to 2011…the largest increase came in the forcible sex offenses category: a nearly 24 percent spike," Madison Police Chief Noble Wray wrote in his blog.

The number of forcible sexual assaults went from 184 in 2011 to 228 in 2012. However, the latest sexual assault data requires further examination.

"When we look at the 2010 number for this category, which is 209, the increase is not as statistically significant. Still, it is clear the number of reported sex offenses is up," Wray said.

"It's difficult to know whether we should be worried that there are more sexual assaults or whether we should be relieved that we're doing a better job of encouraging victims to get support and help, and seek legal help if that's what they want," said Kelly Anderson, executive director of the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.

"If it's the latter it's absolutely is a good thing because we need more victims coming forward," said Stephen Montagna, violence prevention and communications coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Still, at least 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, according to Anderson. She estimates the number of unreported cases is closer to 90 percent.

The number of sexual assaults may rise again next year, as the FBI implemented its new definition of rape in January, expanding it to include all victims and all non-consensual sexual penetration, irrespective of the degree of physical force used. Before, it included only female victims and forcible penetration, according to Michael Scott, clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.  

Meanwhile, local groups are moving the focus of prevention onto the younger generations, particularly boys.

"How do we raise a generation of boys who, when they're in that type of situation, when they see someone incapacitated, that it's not an opportunity? Right now we have a generation of boys that is still seeing that as an opportunity and that's just wrong," Montagna said.

"Prevention is really working with men and boys who don't want to see women harmed and help them change the definition of masculinity so that the men and boys who do hurt women are marginalized and stopped," Anderson said.

If you have experienced sexual assault or know someone who has, call the Dane County Rape Crisis Center at 608-251-7273.

Upcoming Sexual Assault Awareness Month event: Wrap Around the Capitol. At 2:00 p.m. on April 27, People will encircle the Wisconsin Capitol building to show support for survivors of sexual violence.

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