My article below is in response the DI Editorial Article June 8 on Rape Statistics showing an alarming 72% jump in rape statistics, and a News Review article on crime trends.
I would like to clarify my position on the rape statistics discussion during a recent budget planning meeting. First, I have a beautiful wife, daughter and granddaughter and I deplore any form of sexual misconduct against women, or men for that matter. I am a big proponent for the excellent job that our Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. does and particularly their Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). Concerning the meeting, I did not initiate the topic, I was simply following up on alarming stats presented by our Police Chief, followed by several questions by a member of the audience. My concerns during the meeting dealt with clarification of statistics and in no way were my comments intended to minimize sexual assault of any kind. I was trying to determine the cause of this significant jump so that we could try to find a solution.
After the meeting, I asked the Chief to explain. He said, “Historically, rape was defined as forceful carnal knowledge.” In 2013, however, the California DOJ and FBI redefined and expanded the term rape making it more inclusive of many other sexual assaults as well. As a result, the statistics for rape naturally increased significantly nationwide, including Ridgecrest. The FBI article the Chief sent shows an almost 20% increase in reported rapes across the country since the new definition went into effect. But this still does not explain the big jump between 2017 and 2018?
Mayor Pro Tem Stephens during the meeting stated that rape is a rape no matter what, and I entirely agree. She also asked if the “# MeToo” movement could be encouraging victims to come forward leading to increased reporting. And the FBI article confirmed this fact as well. It has increased reporting significantly. In addition, according to the Chief at the meeting, he stated, “of that 31 (reported rapes in 2018) you have to remember that a large portion of those are unfounded…but we have to report it as such…. it’s a high percentage of people meeting people at establishments and the next day coming in and reporting the assault. That’s probably our number one….a large portion are unfounded.” Another point to consider is that high stats also reflect the excellent job that the Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. and the hospital does in making sure that all rape cases are reported. Many other communities are lax in this area.
During the meeting, a member of the audience spoke up and inquired as to where these numbers come from. He asked, “are these rapes attributed to people the victim knows, or are they from out of town, and are all these claims thoroughly investigated and vetted, and is there a relationship to the homeless population.” I repeated several of his comments in the Mic because he had trouble walking to the podium. I was brainstorming and following up on his comments and considering the option of sub-bullets showing a breakdown of some sort, and this led to the idea of simply showing the percentage of those that were “confirmed” or “founded” versus just posting the larger alarming number “reported.” After the meeting, the Chief said he saw merit to this as well and said he would consider it.
After the meeting, I contacted the Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. and I spoke at length to Carol Beecroft, CEO and Karin Stone, Director of Client Services to discuss this issue further. I have gained a much broader understanding of this issue and how the increased efforts in prevention have benefited our community. They also mentioned that, ”there are a number of reasons why this number can seem alarming. For example: minors/custody issues, and other medical/mental health issues.” In addition, the Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. suggested that, “wherever this statistic is presented in the future, that at the bottom of the publication or slide, they would prepare a paragraph that defines this in more detail, so the public fully understands. They would also list a number for people to call their center.” I totally agreed and I asked the Police Chief to please make sure that next year’s slides reflect these suggestions providing a greater degree of public clarification. Lastly, they stated that Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. and the Ridgecrest Police Department are committed to providing trauma-informed/victim-centered services to any person reporting a sexual assault regardless of the outcome.
In conclusion, if any of my brainstorming comments during the meeting were misconstrued, my apologies. My comments were intended to reflect a need for clarification, not minimization. In closing I would like to commend our Police Chief and his officers for working diligently to reduce the crime and rape in our town; and the excellent job of the Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. and SART staff. Regardless of any statistics, ONE rape is too many! As a reminder, if anyone in town has an issue to report, please call the Women’s Center-High Desert, Inc. They are here to help 760-371-1969 (office) and (760) 375-0745 24-hour hotline.
— Wallace Martin is vice mayor for the City of Ridgecrest.
The views expressed are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the official stance of the Daily Independent.