The number of sexual assaults reported in Wisconsin dipped slightly last year. But Tami Jackson with the state Office of Justice Assistance says we shouldn’t read too much into that slight decrease. “With sexual assaults, the declining trend of reported crimes to law enforcement does not necessarily indicate a decline in the actual number of sexual assaults committed,” said Jackson. While data from OJA shows a slight decrease in the number of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement in 2009, victim service providers have been experiencing an increase in the number of sexual assault service requests.
Jacqueline Callari-Robinson, Director for Prevention and Health Care Services for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault said there’s a still a”tremendous amount of shame” involved in reporting a sexual assault. “The other reality is that we live in a system that will still look at a victim and evaluate what they were wearing or not wearing, where they were or where not, what they said or did not say, how they flirted or did not flirt,” Callari-Robinson noted.
OJA’s Jackson said sexual assault remains an under reported crime in Wisconsin and nationwide. Data compiled by OJA from Sexual Assault Victim Service providers indicates about 13,400 female victims of sexual assault in Wisconsin sought victim services in 2009, while 9,200, or 69% who sought services, did not report their assaults to law enforcement. Callari-Robinson said that can often be the result of the trauma experience by the victim. In many cases, she said “a sexual assault victim doesn’t know, or doesn’t have the information, about options of care. Where they can go for care immediately, how to access that care, whether they should go to law enforcement first, whether they should go the hospital first.”
Callari-Robinson said advocacy health care services available in many communities. “Or goal is to make ensure that there are advocacy services, health care SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) services and trained law enforcement and prosecution in every community in this state,” she said. “Once that happens, that gives clients the full option of care, which means that they get to decide what’s in their best interest. And we don’t want to make that decision for them. We want to empower victims to make that decision for themselves.”