Rise in reports may not be evidence of more rapes

Sexual assaults in The City increased 38 percent from last year, but police and community groups are quick to point out the boost could be due to better reporting.

Statistics released Monday at a Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee meeting show an increase in certain violent crimes.

The statistics come on the heels of a recent report by the Police Department in which police brass credit a decrease in shootings from last year to the department’s 7-month-old zone strategy.

However, while robberies have been the main topic of discussion, sexual assaults have flown under the radar.

Police said an increase in rapes reported doesn’t necessarily mean more rapes are occurring. Victims may feel more comfortable about calling police and reporting a sexual assault, said police spokesman Sgt. Wilfred Williams. Also, there has been an increase in the number of “acquaintance” rapes reported, meaning victims know their attackers.

Janelle White of San Francisco Women Against Rape said her organization, which has provided a hot line for victims for 35 years, hasn’t seen an increase in calls. She cited national studies that claim only about 16 percent of women who are the victims of sexual assault report the crime to police.

“Potentially, The City is doing a better job reaching out,” White said. “Rape victims often think they won’t be believed. Many times they’re afraid they’ll be blamed.”

The statistics released, while showing increases in violent crimes, do show improvements in property-related crimes. Burglary is down 4.5 percent, auto boosting is down 10.5 percent, auto theft is down 7 percent and arson is down almost 6 percent.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

 

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