Fighting back against sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and is a good time to focus public attention on the epidemic of sexual violence that plagues our communities. The natural inclination for most of us is to say that these problems occur somewhere else, in much larger communities. This type of thinking could not be further from the truth. Sexual assault is a common problem that all police departments in Iowa deal with on a far too regular basis. In 2015, the Marshalltown Police Department investigated 49 crimes related to sexual abuse, exploitation or sexual violence. So far in 2016, the police department has investigated 15 of these crimes.

Sexual assaults affect women, children, and men of all racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds. None of us are immune to this devastating crime. Rape crisis centers, victim advocacy groups, and law enforcement agencies work diligently to combat the crime of sexual abuse, to help survivors and to try to stop sexual assaults. Unfortunately, resources for these efforts are thin.

In order to stop sexual assault, we all need to work for social change. We all need to be more vocal in our fight against sexual assault and in our support of survivors. When you consider that some studies have shown one in four girls and one in six boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18, it is highly likely someday, someone close to us — such as our spouse, sister, brother, or even our son or daughter — will report they have been sexually assaulted.

Many experts believe that rape and other forms of sexual assault are among the most under reported crimes. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Justice Department for the period 2008-2012, only 32 out of every 100 rapes are reported to the police.

The Marshalltown Police Department is committed to working with the Marshalltown community and our community partners to combat crimes of sexual violence. If you are a victim of sexual assault and would like to seek out support services within Marshall County, you can contact the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support (ACCESS) at 800-203-3488. You may also report this crime to your local Marshall County law enforcement agency by calling 641-754-5725 or 911.

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Michael Tupper is the Marshalltown Police Chief.