Sunday, June 6, 2004

Rape cases in isles
on the rise

The increase could be because
more victims are seeking help

A 12-year review of cases at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center involving rape of adult women shows the rate is increasing in Hawaii while it's dropping nationally, the center reports.

It isn't clear whether the higher numbers are due to more sexual violence or more victims seeking services because of public education, said Adriana Ramelli, director of the treatment center at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

But she thinks it's a positive trend.

"The strength we have here is we do have a high number of people reporting (sexual assaults) because of a strong relationship with law enforcement," she said. "It makes it very supportive and safe for people to come forward.

"When doing prevention, everyone wants the outcome to be less victims," she added. "But because we know it's a serious problem and a lot of victims are out there, we want awareness to happen so people will seek services."

Dean Kilpatrick, executive director of the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, reviewed cases seen at the Kapiolani center from 1990 to 2001, said Evie Yanagida, clinical program manager.

The 2001 figures indicated 14.5 percent of Hawaii adult women -- about 67,000 at that time -- had been rape victims at some time in their life, she said. The national rate was 13.4 percent, she said.

"We found that we have consistently been below the national average through the 1990s, and early 2000-2001 we saw a crossover," she said.

Forcible rape is a narrow FBI criminal definition of sexual assault that includes only vaginal penile penetration of women, Yanagida said.

It excludes males, children and women experiencing attempted rape and other types of sexual assault under Hawaii's laws, she said.

"The actual incidence, which we can only estimate, is far greater for sexual assaults."

Kilpatrick's findings were part of a recent state report, "Sexual Assault Victims in Honolulu, 1990-2001," by the Attorney General's Crime Prevention & Justice Assistance Division with the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.

The report includes demographic profiles of sex-assault victims who went to the center during that period -- about 5,000, Yanagida said.

She said 90 percent were female and 10 percent male, mostly boys.

"But we are again seeing more adult male victims come in."

The average female victim was age 18 and the average male age 10, the study found. Most victims were assaulted by someone they knew, according to the report.

Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians comprised the largest group of victims, at 28.8 percent. Caucasians were next, at 26.4 percent.

Yanagida said about 60 percent of patients now receiving services at the center are minors, up from 50 percent in past years.

About 80 percent to 85 percent of women were sexually abused as children, roughly the same percentages reported for the prison population, she noted.

"So it's not good that we're seeing more kids here, but if they get early treatment, the outlook is better."

Ramelli said emphasis should be shifted from victimization to "true prevention -- how do we get this not to happen in the first place?"

More education is needed with young men at home and in schools to shape attitudes about relationships, respect, limits and violence, she said.

The center's Sexual Assault Prevention Education Awareness and Knowledge (S.P.E.A.K.) Project takes a proactive approach to reduce sexual assault and help young people who may be victims.

The educators reached more than 8,000 middle- and high school students in the past two years, teaching them about date rape and the differences between sexual abuse and sexual relationships.

The goal is "to help young people lead healthy, violence-free lives," said Christine Trecker, manager of the treatment center's community outreach education.


Aid for victims

Services available at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children:

>> A 24-hour crisis hot line, 524-7273.
>> Medical examinations available 24 hours a day, including legal evidence collection and pediatric evaluations.
>> Legal advocacy and support during a patient's contact with law enforcement and court systems.
>> Counseling services for recent or past assault victims, relatives and significant others.
>> Advocacy for policies and laws to protect rights of sexual-assault survivors and community safety, such as those to protect victim counseling information, to provide HIV testing of sex offenders, establish sex offender registration (Megan's law) and eliminate the Hawaii Deferred Acceptance of Guilt (DAGS) for sex offenders so felony convictions can't be eliminated after five years.
>> Education and training in the schools and community to help prevent sexual assaults, starting with a free coloring book, "Let's Talk about Touching," for kindergartners and first- and second-graders.


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