Sexual violence forum stresses awareness

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It is important that community members understand steps they can take to help prevent sexual assault, law enforcement officers and victims advocates said Monday.

Advocates Against Battering and Abuse and the Steamboat Springs Police Department held a public forum Monday night with a panelist from the 14th Judicial District Probation Office to address sexual violence.

Advocates provided services to 41 primary and secondary victims of sexual assault in 2005 and has served seven to date this year.

"The reason that we did this is because we know sexual assault, drugging and the alcohol correlation is significant in our community," Advocates executive director Diane Moore said. "It is important to increase awareness so that teens, adults and individuals can be safe."

Probation officer Trey Walk--er, who has worked with sex offenders for 11 years, gave a presentation on the dynamics of offenders' behaviors.

"There are so many myths regarding sex of----fenders in general," Walker said. "A lot of misconceptions about that increase the risk for victimization."

"Date rape" involves the same dynamics as "stranger rape" and 85 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, Walker said.

"Sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power and control," he said. "And all sexual assaults involve a lot of intensive planning and forethought. "

Most sex offenders engage in crossover behavior. "Over 82 percent of offenders who were only known to have child victims admitted to also having adult victims," Walker said.

Walker also dispelled the myth that all sex offenders were victims of sexual abuse as children.

"After polygraph testing was implemented regarding offenders' self-reported sexual histories, only 29 percent of offenders reported experiencing abuse as a child," he said.

Det. Dave Kleiber said date-rape drugs are an issue even though there has not yet been a case in Routt County in which law enforcement was able to collect the evidence to prove it.

"I don't disbelieve these stories. I think it's happening," Kleiber said. "Everyone I've interviewed has described a date-rape drug to a T. But it is very difficult to go into court and say 'I was drugged' without evidence."

The most recent studies say that date-rape drugs -- which include alcohol -- generally leave a person's body within five hours. By the time someone gets to the hospital to be tested, it is generally too late.

"We don't want people going to the hospital saying they were (drugged) 14 days later," Kleiber said. "People really need to contact law enforcement, and then we will direct where the investigation goes."

Kleiber said only one out of 10 sexual assaults committed is reported to law enforcement. "The vast majority of assaults are not reported," he said.

Capt. Joel Rae said that is an important statistic.

"We are trying to get victims to come forward," Rae said. "If you don't, there is nothing we can do. But if you do report, it is the first step to convicting the perpetrator and getting these guys off the street."

For information or support pertaining to sexual violence, call Advocates at 879-2034 or Advocates' 24-hour crisis line at 879-8888.

-- To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204

or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com

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