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Archive for Thursday, May 23, 1991

POLICE

May 23, 1991

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The three rapes reported to Kansas University police this year were reported weeks and months after the assaults occurred, which a KU police spokesman said impairs the department's ability to gather evidence.

Two rapes were reported to the department during the spring semester. One occurred in July 1990 and was reported in March, and the other occurred in mid-January and was reported later that month. And on Monday, a 22-year-old woman told police she was raped April 21.

Lt. John Mullens of the KU Police Department offered several reasons victims might choose either not to report rapes at all or report them several weeks or months after the assault.

"Quite often, they've got to overcome a lot of things fear of the assailant, confusion about what's going to happen, and to some extent, putting a guilt trip on themselves," Mullens said.

MULLENS SAID the way rape is portrayed on television doesn't do much to encourage rape victims to report assaults.

He said the rape itself is a traumatic enough experience for the victim. That, coupled with what Mullens called the TV portrayal of "feeding victims to the wolves," may discourage a woman or man from reporting a rape.

Unfortunately, Mullens said valuable information is lost when a rape or any other crime is reported long after the incident has occurred.

"Like any crime that has a time delay, you have probably lost valuable evidence," Mullens said. "People's memories fade with time. People start forgetting where they were at, what happened, etc."

Because the most recent rape reported to KU police was reported after the end of the semester, Mullens said police won't have the opportunity to question "the people we'd normally talk to."

However, the woman reported that she was raped by more than one person and police do have the name of one of the suspects, Mullens said.

ACCORDING to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mullens said, one in four women will be raped during her lifetime. He said "acquaintance rapes," also called "date rapes," are on the increase.

Mullens said studies have shown that 90 percent of the victims of acquaintance rape don't even view the incident as being a crime.

"Same with the perpetrator," Mullens added. "But when someone says `No,' that's it. It's a crime."

Mullens said many people still envision rape as a stranger jumping out of a dark area and assaulting the victim. Because of the increase in acquaintance rape, he said many rapes occur in places familiar to the victim the victim's home or work place, for example.

When a person reports a rape to KU police, Mullens said officers initially try to make the victim feel comfortable.

"Any victim of any crime is going to be a little bit hesitant approaching the police," he said. "Rape victims come in with fears of the system, not understanding what's going on or what's going to happen."

MULLENS SAID police prefer to have a Rape Victim Support Services advocate on hand when meeting with rape victims. He said RVSS advocates have been extremely successful in helping victims feel comfortable talking about the rape.

"We can't force RVSS on a victim, but we say, `We can get someone to walk through this with you.' The university community is beautiful in that way because we have all kinds of counseling services."

After police and the victim establish a good working relationship, the victim is asked to describe the assault. In cases in which the rape has just occurred, the victim is encouraged to go to the hospital for a medical examination.

"We spend a lot of time providing information about what they can expect, and after that, you get into particulars," Mullens explained.

MULLENS SAID agencies like RVSS and the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center at KU have been instrumental in educating students about rape.

In addition, KU is in the process of compiling the results of a sexual violence survey that was sent to 1,500 students this spring. Jeff Weinberg, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, said today that the Office of Student Affairs Research Committee, which conducted the survey, is reviewing the raw data.

Weinberg said 36 percent of the surveys were returned, which he said will give KU a valid survey. He said KU's response rate was twice that of other campuses that conducted similar surveys.

Students were asked about their attitudes about sexual violence, rape and sexism. Some students, Weinberg said, also completed the anecdotal section that allowed students to talk about their own experiences.

While results of the survey probably will be released in the fall, Weinberg said they will be formally announced Feb. 11. A Jan. 29 program, which will feature the dean of the Florida college that experienced several murders, also has been scheduled.

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