Sexual Assault: What is happening in our area
This is the last in a four-part series to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month and increase awareness of sex crimes at the international, national, state and local levels. The articles appeared each week throughout April.
Sexual assault crimes happen in communities around the state, country, and world. Communities, including South Lake Tahoe, face issues of rape, gang rape, unwanted touching, child molestation, and the sexual exploitation of children.
According to the California Crime Index, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department had 13 rapes reported in 2002, while Placerville and the El Dorado Sheriff’s Department took 6 and 22 rape reports, respectively.
During the same year, the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center assisted over 200 victims of sexual assault and El Dorado Women’s Center in Placerville served approximately the same number. These individuals experienced a form of sexual violence at some point in their lives. It may have taken them 20 years to seek help, such as individual or group counseling, to work though the emotional and/or sometimes physical ramifications.
South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center assisted local law enforcement with 34 interviews of children in suspected sexual abuse cases last year. Twenty of the individuals interviewed disclosed some form of sexual abuse. In most of these cases, a trained Women’s Center advocate performed a videotaped interview of the child to be used as evidence for prosecution. As a result, seventy percent of those with charges filed by the District Attorney’s Office pleaded no contest.
Unfortunately, most cases of child sexual abuse go unreported because children are threatened by their abusers, who are often family members or close friends. Although the abuse may continue for years, while the child keeps the frightening secret, sexual activity between an adult and child is never consensual.
Survivors of sexual violence who reported the crimes have built a foundation for public awareness. Their courageous voices continue to give other victims hope and strength. Ending sexual violence will mean creating a community where victims are empowered to report crimes and perpetrators are held accountable for their criminal behavior.
For more information or to speak with a rape crisis counselor, call the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center’s 24-hour crisis line at 544-4444 or visit our office, located at 2941 Lake Tahoe Boulevard. No appointment is necessary. The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center building is financed by a low-cost loan through the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.
-Amy Stacy is an outreach coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.