Archive for Sunday, March 1, 2009

The reality of rape in Lawrence

March 1, 2009

Advertisement

Sexual Assaults in Lawrence: Not an uncommon crime

In the past five years, more than 450 adult sexual assaults have been reported in Lawrence. There's a rape in Lawrence every four days. Each case represents an instance where someone’s life has been irrevocably changed. LJWorld.com, the Lawrence Journal-World and 6News are taking a deeper look at what those numbers really mean.

Sexual assaults happen all over Lawrence, however the majority happen in areas that are home to numerous students and other places with high concentrations of residents.

Sexual assaults happen all over Lawrence, however the majority happen in areas that are home to numerous students and other places with high concentrations of residents.

Despite being nearby, some neighborhoods have significantly more sexual assaults than others.

Despite being nearby, some neighborhoods have significantly more sexual assaults than others.

On average, a sexual assault is reported in Lawrence every four days.

Most assailants are not the knife-wielding stranger jumping out of alleyways or lurking behind bushes.

The offender is usually someone the victim knows, often quite intimately. The attack happens inside a house or in an apartment and, with the exception of physical force, no weapon is used.

To paint a clearer picture of who is attacked, where the attack happened and who did it, the Lawrence Journal-World and 6News spent two months gathering and analyzing data about sexual assaults in Douglas County.

Numbers never tell the whole story, but they can bridge the gap between the public’s perception of sexual assault and the reality of it.

Much of the data is shaped by what Lawrence is: a college town with thousands of white females between the ages of 15 and 25 — the population that is the victim in the overwhelming majority of attacks.

From 2003 to 2007, 70 percent of rape survivors in Lawrence knew their attackers, according to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. In at least 10 percent of the cases, the attacker was a stranger.

So-called date rapes represent the majority of the cases that come through GaDuGi SafeCenter. The Lawrence nonprofit provides a 24-hour sexual assault hot line and helps shepherd survivors through the process of healing.

With the combination of KU, Baker University and Haskell Indian Nations University, the amount of alcohol and drug use common on campus and the role those two substances play in sexual assaults, Douglas County is a nonsurprising setting for an offense, said GaDuGi executive director Sarah Jane Russell.

“Who we are suggests that we are going to see numbers, and that’s just what it is,” she said.

The Journal-World/6News analysis also found that a quarter of all sexual assaults in Lawrence between 2004 and 2008 — more than 100 assaults — occurred on KU’s campus or within walking distance of the university.

Lawrence Police Sgt. Bill Cory said the number of assaults surrounding campus could simply be an issue of how many people live there. The neighborhood is saturated with multiplexes and homes remodeled into five or six apartments.

“When you have denser populations, you have large numbers of people in small areas that can make crime percentages go up,” Cory said.

The college environment

Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan, who prosecutes sexual assault cases in Douglas County, said the mix of alcohol and new-found freedom makes for a dangerous combination.

“The college environment is an easy one for a sex offender to move around in,” she said. “I am not judgmental of girls who want to go out and get drunk with their friends, but they can be so vulnerable.”

Brittany Wolfe, a KU senior and a bartender downtown, sees the scenario played out every Tuesday night during the $1.75 schooner special.

“They can’t stand up let alone make decisions for themselves,” she said of the men and women who take advantage of the cheap beer. “And the friends kind of let it happen. People aren’t aware enough of what their friends are doing.”

In Lawrence, the majority of rapes happen between midnight and 4 a.m., and 40 percent occur on the weekend.

When KU sophomore Marina Olson and her friends go out, they worry about a stranger slipping a “roofie” — a sedative — in their drink. But she acknowledges the reality that she is far more likely to be assaulted by someone she knows.

Olson and Wolfe were among the 30 or so female students at KU professor Charlene Muehlenhard’s Women and Violence class, which meets on Thursdays.

The group rattled off a series of precautions they take to keep safe from stranger rapes: being on a cell phone when walking at night by themselves, keeping their car keys pushed through their fist as they make their way through dark parking lots, and the automatic uptick in awareness when they walk past an empty park.

“You’re brought up to fear the dark alley. The media don’t paint rapists as boyfriends or dating partners or friends of friends,” KU junior Michelle MacBain said. Before taking Muehlenhard’s class, MacBain said, she never questioned the situations she put herself in throughout her dating life.

A study done at KU several years ago found that women were more frightened of stranger rape than of acquaintance rape, Muehlenhard said. The women were also more likely to modify their behavior to prevent such rapes, even though they knew acquaintance rapes were more common.

The reason for the gap, Muehlenhard said, was that women believed “their friends wouldn’t do that.”

On some level, stranger rapes can be easier for people to accept than acquaintance rapes, Russell, of GaDuGi, said.

“We can make sure we have extra locks, we can make sure we have good lighting ... those kinds of things give us a sense that we have control in keeping ourselves safe,” Russell said.

Captain Schuyler Bailey of the KU Public Safety Office said the majority of sexual assault reports at KU take place in social settings where people let their guards down.

“Historically, we teach our children to be afraid of strangers. We trust the people around us,” Bailey said.

It’s especially important to pay attention to your instincts in those instances.

“When you don’t feel comfortable in a social setting, you leave,” he said.

The unknown

While much of the data in Lawrence points to victims as young, white women in date-rape type scenarios, that doesn’t exclude the rest of the population from the crime. In the past five years, sexual assaults have been reported in nearly every segment of our community and in all sections of town.

Some have occurred in parking lots, garages, streets and alleys. And others have been the much feared rape by a stranger. The victims range in age from under 10 to over 50, and are both male and female.

“The unknown is what causes people to be uneasy,” Russell said. “I can’t give you ‘this is where it always happens, this it where it will never happen.’ It just happens.”

Comments

sustainabilitysister 6 years, 5 months ago

I would like to know the percentage of convictions versus the percentage of allegations.

doc1 6 years, 5 months ago

what the story doesn't say is how many of those are falsely reported and the so called victims later reveal it wasn't real or they were trying some other scheme such as trying to get attention. It makes it hard for law enforcement to help the real victims when they go to each call wondering if its real.

sustainabilitysister 6 years, 5 months ago

Roughly 1 in 10 are convicted. Thank you doc1 for your insight on falsified reports.

viewfromahill 6 years, 5 months ago

(Personally, I'm looking forward to "The rape of reality in Lawrence" article.)

lawthing 6 years, 5 months ago

what the story is saying is that women should not be out drunk at 2AM walking down dark alleys, leaving bars alone, or with some guy they just met that paid for a few drinks.

CarterFaucheaux 6 years, 5 months ago

good reporting, poor copy editing

"the amount of alcohol and drug use common on campus and the role those two substances play in sexual assaults"

('drugs and alcohol' certainly entails more than two substances)

"For $400, we could receive the date, time and location of the offense."

($400 per offense! wowwaweewow! i'm sure this isn't what you meant. if it is, it's certainly worth a bit more emphasis to note that you paid some $180,000 to gather the information on 451 sexual assault cases)

CarterFaucheaux 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bladerunner 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

tir 6 years, 5 months ago

Oh, great. From the map, it looks I live in (or very close to) the red area where 48 sexual assaults occurred.

CarterFaucheaux 6 years, 5 months ago

do you want to answer my question or just remove the comment again to cover up your poorly described statistic?

what does "victim also offender" mean and how is it possible to rape or sexually assault yourself?!?!

RaynRavyn 6 years, 5 months ago

While I fully realize there are probably a good number of false reports of this nature, I am sure that the conviction rate would be much higher if the Lawrence/Douglas Co law enforcement and "detectives" would pull their collective head out... Last June, I was raped by an aquaintance of one of my family members. After going to the hospital to have a rape kit collected, I was kept at the LEC for eight and a half hours, the majority of which time I was left alone in an "intervew" room. The next day, the "detective" assigned to my case wanted to go out and see "if we can locate the scenes" (was a somewhat long ordeal... spanning about 3 hours, and a considerable area). I had already told him the road/intersection that was very near one of the areas, however he decided he knew better than I where this most likely happened. Never did get around to the area it happened in. Then, three days later, he told me- point blank, and in a deadpan- that he believed I had initated sex with the man who raped me, then said I was raped to "get out of it". At that point, I gave up seeing him arrested. I have since found out through talking to others, that this man has been sexually abusing women for at least 10 years (I have talked to 8 people whom he has raped in the past, other than myself), and in every case, he has walked away from it. THIS is the reality of rape in Lawrence....

Fatty_McButterpants 6 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps Brittany Wolfe, and other bartenders, should stop serving people when they appear to be intoxicated as, I believe, the law requires.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 6 years, 5 months ago

Where you go, what you do and who you hang out with are three huge AND CONTROLLABLE factors in keeping one's self safe.

It's everyone's right to go party on Saturday night, but if you do it, don't make assumptions about your safety. Also, it's much harder to sniff out a potential attacker if your senses are numb.

M. Lindeman 6 years, 5 months ago

"OldEnuf2BYurDad (Anonymous) says…

Where you go, what you do and who you hang out with are three huge and controllable factors in keeping one's self safe. It's everyone's right to go party on Saturday night, but if you do it, don't make assumptions about your safety. Also, it's much harder to sniff out a potential attacker if your senses are numb."

Everyone should reread what this gentleman has just said. That should sum it all up, We as a society need to start being more responsable. Today's world does not allow us to be so trusting anymore.

OldEnuf2BYurDad, Good job hitting the nail on the head.

rousseau108 6 years, 5 months ago

Carter,

Maybe the "victim also offender" refers to incidents were two underage people engage in consensual sex, which could technically be rape (depending on ages) and would list both people as victims and suspects.

Danimal 6 years, 5 months ago

I have to say that law enforcement usually does a horrible job with rapes, probably because it's not like a murder where it's a little easier to sort out what happened. It shocks me that we apparently have a serial rapist that has been marauding through our community for years without law enforcement even having a lead or two. People should take more responsibility for their personal safety, yet at the same time the enforcement of the law shouldn't vary so greatly simply because one type of crime is harder to convict. It's horrible that when women do come forward to report a rape (because as often as not rape goes unreported) they are often disregarded and seen as sluts out trying to settle a score with someone by alleging rape.

Evan Ridenour 6 years, 5 months ago

"Fatty_McButterpants (Anonymous) says…

Perhaps Brittany Wolfe, and other bartenders, should stop serving people when they appear to be intoxicated as, I believe, the law requires."

DING DING DING, we have a winner!

There are quite a few Lawrence bars that INTENTIONALLY serve underage patrons (I know this for a fact as I have overheard and witnessed staff members and owners knowingly doing it) so I don't see why they would stop serving those of the legal variety even after they can't even stand!

In a lot of other cities I have gone to all over the country the staff will actually take away your drink and call you a cab if they even begin to suspect you are intoxicated, here in Lawrence they keep the booze flowing no matter what.

Oh well, at least it gives me entertainment. Watching people puke on their friends, fall down, get into fights.... what great entertainment! And all at their expense!

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

And yet the university is perfectly content to disarm women through their incredibly restrictive weapons policy.

Calliope877 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

"Calliope877 (Anonymous) says… Rape is cruel, but unfortuantely, it's not unusual."

Really? In what sense? Do you mean rape is statistically "usual" in the sense that it is a numerically frequent event? Perhaps you mean that rape is "usual" in the sense that the event is "routine?" Either way, I'm not sure I get what you mean. It seems to me that rape is unusual in both senses.

Calliope877 6 years, 5 months ago

Oops, sorry.

glock, I get what you're saying and I agree. I guess what I meant is that rape isn't an uncommon crime. Perhaps "unusual" wasn't the best word to use.

Strontius 6 years, 5 months ago

"And yet the university is perfectly content to disarm women through their incredibly restrictive weapons policy."

Lets break down what I think you're implicitly advocating here, given your user name on this board. You want to add firearms or other deadly weapons to the mix of drugs and alcohol that accompany most rapes, turning rape into even more serious injury, death, and murder. Is that really a road you want to go down?

Women don't have to be disarmed. There are plenty of university run and locally run martial arts schools and self-defense programs. One of the best is the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) school, right here in Lawrence. Knowing how to defend yourself is infinitely more valuable to a person than simply owning a gun or other weapon without any knowledge on how to use it properly, much less deal with the situation at hand. Simply owning a gun or any weapon without training is next to useless, and will most likely result in that weapon being used against you.

Most importantly, people (ALL people not just women) need to be more careful about the decisions they make. Everyone knows what happens when you drink and take drugs. But that doesn't excuse anything. If we punish people for their drinking and driving, then we certainly ought to be punishing people for drinking and raping!

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 5 months ago

"Strontius (Anonymous) says… Women don't have to be disarmed. There are plenty of university run and locally run martial arts schools and self-defense programs. One of the best is the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) school, right here in Lawrence. Knowing how to defend yourself is infinitely more valuable to a person than simply owning a gun or other weapon without any knowledge on how to use it properly, much less deal with the situation at hand. Simply owning a gun or any weapon without training is next to useless, and will most likely result in that weapon being used against you."

Riiight. Because I said women should purchase a gun and be content to simply own it without any sort of training and wander around drunkenly ? I love how people like you jump to that conclusion whenever anyone suggests that CCW is a good option. It is insulting to the very women you claim to protect. However, thanks for proving my point in the other thread: anti-gun folks will reflexively advocate against guns in any situation.

Further, I also find it amusing that you advocate martial arts classes given that proficiency at martial arts requires far more time and physical prerequisites than becoming proficient with a firearm and that the other story suggests that the serial rapist is armed. Unlike you, I would never advocate against one form of self-defense because of my politics, but one must also be realistic. One can teach a physically small person to be extremely proficient with a weapon in a relatively short period of time, but one will never be able to teach someone to taekwondo themselves out of the path of a bullet.

Hoots 6 years, 5 months ago

I've had numerous relationships with women I have dated or befriended that have been raped. Not one of them was raped by a stranger. It was typically someone they knew quite well but never a stranger. This is one crime that I can say leaves a huge mark on the victims. Some deal better than others but it always changes their lives in a negative way. We don't take this seriously enough in what we do to the criminals in this case. Our Judge Paula Martin should be ashamed to be a woman and a judge.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 5 months ago

original_me, I agree with some of your comment but the rapist is ultimately the criminal and at fault regardless of how the victim was dressed or where she was or what he had to drink!


under 10 to over 50, and are both male and female.

big time kudos to the writers of the article! rarely do male victims get any notice at all! thank you for not forgetting the forgotten victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

CarterFaucheaux 6 years, 4 months ago

Thank you rousseau. You are much more useful than the LJ-World staff, who deleted my question rather than answer it the first time around. Maybe they are upset over my criticisms, but one would think they'd take a bit more time to proofread a story they obviously spent so long working on.

5thGenJayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

As a student in Professor Muehlenhard's class, I am upset that this article was so misused as yet another way to place responsibility for rape on women, alcohol and drugs. As a senior at KU, believe me, I know not to get so "wasted" and go walking through the student ghetto alone at night... but at the same time, I also know that those types of rape are the least common. I pick and choose my friends wisely, but who is to say that I will never be taken advantage of by one of them? Or maybe if I meet you and enjoy your company? You want me to have mace in hand (which by the way is more often used against the carrier anyway) when we hang out--I mean after all I am just protecting myself against any possible circumstance. By no means am I a feminist, but I do see a problem with our culture and the HUGE responsibility it places on the victim to "protect" themselves against sexual agression... why not teach our youths that engaging in unwilling sex with another-whether drunk, high, non-consenting, or etc- is punishible by law and mentally damaging to any human being?

I agree to some extent that it is every PERSON'S responsibility to protect his or her own self from the realities of violence in this world, but Ms. Metz was doing all Lawrence citizens a favor to discuss the realities of rape after the recent fears spurred by the "serial rapist"... While incredibly brutal and traumatizing, more victims are indeed raped by people they know. This is a fact that I suggest you pass along to daughters, sons, friends and all dear ones. You never know if they may engage in some form of unwanted sex as a victim OR a perp.

I feel so very sorry for those who have commented on this story through childish jokes and gross stereotypes. You will be ashamed at some point in your life when you discover that someone you love has fallen victim to this very sort of thing...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.