Reported sexual assaults on the rise in Rock County
JANESVILLE The number of Rock County sexual assaults reported in 2009 increased 20 percent from the previous year, officials said Tuesday.
Rock County had 300 reported sexual assaults in 2009, compared to 250 in 2008, officials said. In 93 percent of the cases, victims knew and trusted their attacker.
“It’s a serious issue in our community,” said Rich Gruber, Mercy Health System vice president of community advocacy, later calling it a “dirty little secret.”
About 30 people gathered in a park outside Mercy Hospital on Tuesday to recognize the victims. A pinwheel was stuck in the ground for each victim.
Members of Mercy Health System's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, law enforcement agencies, the Rock County District Attorney's Office and victim advocates attended the ceremony.
April is sexual assault awareness month.
District Attorney David O’Leary said his office recently prosecuted a case involving the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl.
He said the case would have been difficult to prove without help from Mercy’s sexual assault program.
The child was too young to testify in her own defense, but a nurse testified about the child’s bruises stemming from the assault, O’Leary said.
The attacker was convicted, he said.
“Those cases are especially difficult,” O’Leary said. “We all care about those victims.”
Dave Moore, Janesville police chief, said few cases are more horrific than sexual assaults. He said the emotional scarring lasts longer than the physical injuries.
Moore said victims deserve to be heard. He said he appreciates the cooperation among agencies to help victims.
Sheriff Bob Spoden said victims often know or trust their attackers.
“These victims, unfortunately, tend to be very young,” he said. “They tend to be the most vulnerable.”
Jackie Friar, coordinator for the hospital's sexual assault program, said victims are our daughters, sons, sisters and brothers. She said physical abuse also is a problem.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault offers 10 ways people can help combat sexual assault:
1. Be supportive to survivors of sexual violence.
2. Talk to your children and others about the importance of consent in healthy relationships.
3. Refuse to support companies that promote sexual exploitation.
4. Propose curriculum changes to your child’s school to include more time on sexual violence prevention.
5. Write a letter to the editor responding to coverage of sexual assaults in the news.
6. Attend community vigils, marches or other events.
7. Invite an educator to speak to your class, workplace or church about sexual violence.
8. Urge your political leaders to take a stand against sexual violence.
9. Educate yourself about sexual violence.
10. Contact your local rape crisis center. Volunteer your time and skills.