Eighty percent of the nation’s sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement. Those are some of the results from an extensive National Research Council study. Those numbers are echoed here in East Texas.
Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and most of those victims will never tell anyone about it.
East Texas Crisis Center Counselor Britney Hilbun is trying to change that. She agrees with a National Research Council Report, suggesting a better approach when talking to sexual assault victims.
“Overall, we have a victim blaming approach and it needs to be more victim-centered. It’s really easy to do that with just little changes as far as how we talk to victims, and our language,” Ms. Hilbun said.
She said wording tough questions in a less interrogative matter can make a big difference, especially in law enforcement interviews.
“A lot of the questions and language is to ask the victim why they were doing what they were doing, why they were there, why they were wearing that,” Ms. Hilbun said.
That can make victims feel as if they’re to blame, and they may not follow through with making an official law enforcement report, or they may not seek counseling.
In 2012, 324 victims came to East Texas crisis centers for help. The majority of those sexual assault victims had not reported their cases. Counselors at those centers say they’re there to help victims make that decision and find the best way to do it.
“We let them know of all of the resources available in this community and walk them through that process. That’s part of what we do. They don’t have to do it alone, Ms. Hilbun said.
Counselors encourage victims to report sexual assault to law enforcement for many reasons.
“The more information and evidence we have, ultimately will help the abusers or the perpetrators get punished for the crimes they committed,” Ms. Hilbun said.
Reporting assault also increases public awareness and funding for organizations that help victims.
For more information or to contact the East Texas Crisis Center, visitwww.etcc.org .
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County also is available to the public. Counselors there help children dealing with sexual assault or sexual abuse. For more information or to contact the center, visitwww.cacsmithcounty.org .