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Reported rapes on rise in D.C. area

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Photo - Close up crime scene investigation police boundary tape
Close up crime scene investigation police boundary tape
Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Crime,Ben Giles

Reported cases of rape are up in many jurisdictions around the Washington area, some by as much as 59 percent, according to a year-to-year analysis of police crime data.

Prince William County has experienced the most pronounced spike in rapes: In the first three quarters of 2012, there has been a 59 percent increase in forcible rape (54 cases compared with 34 at the same point last year), according to quarterly crime reports.

Police in Prince William were perplexed Tuesday as to why reported cases have climbed so much in 2012. It comes after there were seven fewer cases of forcible rape in 2011 than the previous year, according to police data.

Range of dates varies by jurisdiction: Arlington County through 12/10; D.C. through 12/17; Fairfax County through 11/30; Montgomery County through 11/30; Prince George's County through 12/10; Prince William County through 9/30.

Sex crimes rising
Jurisdiction Categorization 2011 2012 Percent change
Arlington Rape 23 29 +26SClBDistrict Sex abuse 154 210 +36SClBFairfax Forcible rape 66 77 +17
Montgomery Rape 81 80 -1
Prince George's Forcible rape 83 79 -5
Prince William Forcible rape 34 54 +59

"Anytime someone makes a claim of a sexual assault, we investigate it as we always would," said spokesman Jonathan Perok. "I don't know how to explain it."

Cases of sex abuse are up 36 percent in the District. As of Monday, 210 cases had been reported in the city this year, up from 154 cases at this point in 2011, according to statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday.

It's the second consecutive year that the city has recorded a spike in sex crimes. Sexual assaults in the District climbed from 141 in 2010 to 174 in 2011, according to the police department's 2011 annual report.

But the DC Rape Crisis Center hasn't experienced a corresponding uptick in the number of victims it has treated, according to Executive Director Denise Snyder.

"We have not seen an increase in the number of calls or clients that we're seeing over the last couple of years," Snyder said. "I do think what we're looking at is probably an increase in reporting."

If that's the case, Snyder said there's cause for celebration. The national reporting rate for sexual violence is somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent, she said, so any increase in reported sex crimes could be seen as a growing comfort level among victims, men and women alike, to report rape and abuse.

Efforts such as the Washington Hospital Center's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program, which got underway in 2010, have provided a quick and discreet way for survivors to get treatment, Snyder said.

"It has the effect of helping the healing process, instead of [treating it] how it used to be -- which is more like a second assault," Snyder said.

Prince George's and Montgomery counties were the area's only jurisdictions that reported a drop in rapes. In Prince George's, rapes are down from 83 in 2011 to 79 in 2012 as of Dec. 10. In Montgomery County, there has been one fewer reported rape in 2012 than the previous year.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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