Rape reports in Maine increase for second year in a row

NOW: Reported rapes on the rise

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It can be a difficult topic to discuss, but sexual assault is now in the forefront, due, in part, to the "Me Too" movement on social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Earlier this week, the Maine Department of Public Safety released crime statistics, showing that reported rapes in Maine increased for the second year in a row. In 2016, there were 383 reported rapes statewide, compared to 373 in 2015.
 
Amy Roeder lives in Bangor, but remembers her rape when she was 19 years old. At a Fourth of July party she was left alone with a guy she had met only a few times before. She did not know the man's name. When she tried to report it through the rape crisis hotline, they said the lack of details could make it difficult for her to pursue prosecution.
 
"I felt very isolated. I didn't think this happened to anyone else," said Roeder. 
 
Eventually, Roeder shared her story with a few friends, who then started sharing their own stories.
 
"That was one less little bit of feeling alone. It helped the pain, but it compounded the pain in another way," said Roeder.
 
The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates that 14,000 people in Maine will experience rape each year.
 
"I think that if people want to report a crime that has been perpetrated against them they absolutely should," said Cara Courchesne, MECASA's communications director.
 
DPS broke down the numbers further: in urban areas, police received 303 rape reports in 2016, up one from 2015. In rural areas, police received 80 reports in 2016, up nine from 2015.
 
Courchesne said that increase in reporting gives her hope that more people feel comfortable reporting, but that a fundamental change in culture must happen to prevent rapes from occurring, and that these statistics do not truly reflect the amount of rapes actually happening.
 
However, millions of women across the world shared their stories through the "Me Too" campaign on social media. By posting the words "me, too" in a status or post, women shared how frequently these types of assaults occur.
 
"When we think about the actual number of people who have experienced these issues, it's not a surprise that it took off the way that it did. We need to move beyond the awareness piece and get to the prevention piece," said Courchesne.
 
"It's great to feel like you're not alone, but it's a crappy club to be a part of," said Roeder. "If my sharing can help anyone feel a little bit less alone, then I have paid back the debt that other people gave me."
 
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, help is available. Please call the statewide sexual assault crisis and support line at 1-800-871-7741. 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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