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Archive for Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Community leaders hope to spark discussion on alcohol use, sexual assault

March 3, 2009

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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.

It is time to discuss rates of sexual assault in Lawrence and how widespread use of alcohol in the city may be contributing to the problem, several community leaders said this week.

“Raising awareness is going to be key,” said Kathy Rose-Mockry, program director for the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center at Kansas University. “There may be a misconception that rape doesn’t affect our community.”

But that’s not what the numbers show. An analysis by the Journal-World and 6News of crime statistics found that a sexual assault — everything from rape to indecent liberties with a child — is reported about every four days in Lawrence.

“Looking at that map with all those dots on it was just frightening,” City Commissioner Sue Hack said of a Journal-World map that showed 401 different locations in the city where a sexual assault had been reported in the last five years. “That really caused it to hit home how many of these incidents we have had.”

Hack and others said it may be time for the community to have a formal discussion about ways to reduce the incidence of sexual assault in the community. But they also said that may require a broader discussion about alcohol use in the city.

Statistics vary, but some studies have found that 50 to 70 percent of sexual assault cases involve alcohol use, either by the perpetrator or the victim.

“That’s a conversation that needs to happen all across the country,” Rose-Mockry said. “By and large, alcohol is one of the most significant factors in all communities when it comes to sexual assault.”

Lawrence is one of the more active alcohol markets in the state. A 2007 analysis by the Journal-World found that Lawrence had the highest per capita alcohol sales in the state, topping the next closest community by about 15 percent.

“We have a great atmosphere in Lawrence, and we don’t want to change that,” Hack said. “But I think it sometimes gives too much of a sense that it is a rolling party.”

Some efforts to spark a community conversation about alcohol use already have begun. Jen Brinkerhoff, a director with Lawrence-based drug and alcohol counseling center DCCCA said The New Tradition Coalition of Lawrence started about six months ago. The group is working to educate parents and youth about the dangers of irresponsible drinking.

“In a college town it can be a very difficult message to get across,” Brinkerhoff said. “You can say this isn’t a healthy choice, but then youth can go out and see the tailgating that goes on, all the opportunities we have to celebrate. But we’re not trying to say that all drinking is bad. The message here is responsibility.”

New Traditions has about 20 active members. They include representatives from KU, the health care industry, law enforcement, the bar industry and parents. Brinkerhoff said the group might be able to expand its role to look at how to reduce sexual assault crimes as well.

Another possibility is the Community Health Improvement Project. Executive Director Janelle Martin said her organization would consider starting a new work group to study sexual assault prevention, if community leaders determined that need wasn’t being met elsewhere.

“We could certainly discuss whether we can convene the right players in our community to tackle this issue,” Martin said.

Historically, the city also has provided financial support for organizations that provide services for victims or that work to prevent sexual assault.

But it may be more difficult for the city to play that role in the future, Hack said. The state legislature is considering withholding the city’s share of state liquor tax revenues in an effort to deal with state budget shortfalls. The city has traditionally used that money — $1.7 million per year — to help fund prevention services.

“We just need to step it up,” Hack said of efforts in the community, “but here we are saying we don’t have money to do that.”

Comments

cowboy 5 years, 1 month ago

not to come off as an old timey prohibitionist but....I'm older and Alcohol is not a part of my diet anymore so i feel no need to defend it's use. How many women have gotten raped after smoking a cigarette or using pot? How many drivers have killed someone while not using alcohol ? How many folks have had there adolescence ruined by alcohol abuse , their college careers effected , their marriages broken up , their jobs lost , their physical health impacted.

IMHO alcohol usage is a really unattractive activity which is highly abused and directly or indirectly responsible for a lot of damage in our lives. Yet it is legal and the accepted drug of choice in our society.

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Steven Gaudreau 5 years, 1 month ago

It is my opinion that the consumption per capita may be a bit misleading. We need to take into consideration that 6 or 7 times a year, 15,000 people come in from out of town to attend football games. A large percentage buy alcohol either from stores or restaurants. We also see this during the home basketball games. Last years numbers were tainted even more because we had 100,000 people come in from out of town to celebrate KU's championship. A lot of those individuals were in bars and restaurants as well. I would think any relatively small city that has the largest college campus in the state will always have the highest per capita alcohol consumption.

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couranna1 5 years, 1 month ago

WHY i.....d....i.....o....t Sexual assault is never ok moron under any circumstances and there is no viable excuse NONE

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WHY 5 years, 1 month ago

Hey girls if you all want to reduce the number of sexual assaults quit getting so drunk you pass out with a stranger who is also drunk. That should eliminate about 90% of these cases. Oh and I know it is not very sensitive, but.....

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dweezil222 5 years, 1 month ago

nekansan (Anonymous) says…

Notice I said false reports, not reports that did not result in charges. Big difference. A false report has nothing to do with simply ignoring the complaint because the victim had consumed alcohol. Frequently excessive consumption of alcohol can be the factor that proves the victim was unable to consent, therefore a victim of sexual assault. The difficulty of sexual assault reports is they often occupy the grey area between simple black & white. If a person willingly has sex with another person and regrets it later, or when their significant other finds out, was the act rape? Most would say no, but it certainly could be and does get reported as such. How does one determine that a crime took place with no evidence of merit other than the victims statement? Are you willing to go to jail just because one person says you broke the law?

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This is the inherent problem with sexual assault laws, and one I loathe. The potential for false accusations based on later regret is simply too high. It also creates an incentive for a woman who has somehow been spurned by a man to have sex with him and then claim it was rape as an act of vengeance. I'm not saying these are common occurrences, nor am I in any way suggesting that legitimate occurrences of rape are not far more common than most of us would probably like to admit. However, the potential for innocents to be wrongly accused remains, and I have yet to be able to formulate a satisfactory way of addressing the issue without sacrificing the ability for legitimate victims to pursue their allegations.

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not_holroyd 5 years, 1 month ago

there are all sorts of charts with dots I would like to see from LPD police statistics.

But they will not provide much of the arrest and incident data other departments do provide.

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nekansan 5 years, 1 month ago

Notice I said false reports, not reports that did not result in charges. Big difference. A false report has nothing to do with simply ignoring the complaint because the victim had consumed alcohol. Frequently excessive consumption of alcohol can be the factor that proves the victim was unable to consent, therefore a victim of sexual assault. The difficulty of sexual assault reports is they often occupy the grey area between simple black & white. If a person willingly has sex with another person and regrets it later, or when their significant other finds out, was the act rape? Most would say no, but it certainly could be and does get reported as such. How does one determine that a crime took place with no evidence of merit other than the victims statement? Are you willing to go to jail just because one person says you broke the law?

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Jersey_Girl 5 years, 1 month ago

And being dismissed out of hand because of alcohol usage is even more damaging.

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nekansan 5 years, 1 month ago

"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."

Not every instance of a reported sexual assault is a rape. Nor is every report true. LJW-how about being a bit more careful in choosing your words. It's also worthwhile to publish statistics on the number & frequency of false reports that police receive. Being falsely accused of sexual assault can be very damaging to the accused.

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