The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

    Rape increases in district, decreases in county

    Washington D.C. suffered a 25 percent increase in the number of forcible rapes in 2010 from 2009, and Maryland suffered a six percent increase, despite a four percent decrease in Montgomery County.


    Forcible rape is defined by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program as sexual intercourse with a female against her will. Attempted rapes and sexual assaults are also included, but statutory rape, consensual sex between an adult and a minor, is not.


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    “My guess as to why this increase happened [in Maryland] is that more people are reporting,” said Cheryl Banks, community educator for the Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program (VASAP). “My hope is that people have decided to not tolerate what’s happening to them. We play the ‘Shame and Blame’ game with victims, and the real responsibility lies with the person who does it.”


    According to Banks, the “Shame and Blame” game occurs when rape victims feel ashamed about what has happened and are blamed by peers for provoking rapists. This discourages them from reporting their rapes.


    According to VASAP therapist Ginger Ebner, recklessness may also be a cause for the increase in reported rapes.


    “There are so many loose boundaries that young women are not picking up on,” Ebner said. “They need to take more responsibility for their surroundings and who they’re with. There are too many opportunities for young people to get into situations that seem very unclear. They don’t trust their gut and get out of the situation, and then they recognize later that that really was against their will.”


    According to Ebner, this is not just a problem with females; men need to be more aware of themselves as well.


    “Young men need to pay attention to the fact that if the girl is underage or if she is under the influence, she legally cannot give consent even if she’s coming on to the guy,” Ebner said. “This is coming back and hurting these guys who think they have a willing girl but then realize that she didn’t consent and considers it rape.”


    According to school nurse Deborah Stapleton, one way to prevent overstepping boundaries is to stay away from drugs and alcohol.


    “Teenagers need to understand that alcohol and drugs influence personal safety, increasing the risk of sexual assault,” Stapleton said. “‘No’ is a powerful word. We want to empower teenagers to be able to make safe choices.”


    Just as the increase in rapes in Maryland may be caused by an increase in reporting, the overall decrease in Montgomery County may be caused by a decrease in reporting.


    “The sexual offense and rape crimes oftentimes involve someone who the victim knows personally,” said Montgomery County Police Media Division Captain Paul Starks. “That doesn’t mean they are allowed to commit the crime or that it’s any less of a crime, but sometimes, the victim does not want to move forward for personal reasons because they know the person, and so we don’t hear about it.”


    To continue the downward trend in Montgomery County and prevent future increase in Maryland rape, VASAP is introducing a new group called Man Up, which will educate men about what constitutes rape and encourage them to speak out when they see their friends endangering themselves or treating women badly.


    According to Banks, a lot of the responsibility of preventing future increase in rape lies in the hands of the current generation.


    “It’s this generation that’s going to make sexual violence stop,” Banks said. “The way women treat themselves and men treat women, even during early teenage life, is going to make a big difference in the long run. The only way we’re going to see sexual violence come to an end is if everybody stands up against it and decides not to tolerate it.”

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