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Athens police, advocacy groups work to make Athens safer

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The Athens police department had 21 rapes and 16 sexual offenses called in last year, and out of these 37 calls, 25 turned into actual reports, according to Chief Thomas Pyle.

Two sexual assaults were reported to the Ohio University Police Department within less than a week of each other on Aug. 29 and Sept. 3.

The Athens police department’s annual report shows that Athens had an average of 16 reported rapes from 2009 to 2011.

In comparison, the report from Kent State’s police department showed an average of nine rapes.

Oxford had an average 18 sexual offenses according to the Miami University website, which is a combination of forcible and nonforcible assaults.

While these numbers do show that Athens leads in the number of reported rapes, this does not necessarily mean that there are more sexual offenses in Athens.

“There is no real way to know if sexual assaults are more prevalent now,” Chief Pyle said.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s website, 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police and 97 percent of rapists are never arrested.

For victims who are seeking support, Ohio University offers a program called the Survivors Advocacy Program, which helps victims of assault to seek safely, emotional support and possible legal action.

“Our main goal is advocacy,” said Brenda Strickland, a spokesperson for the OU Survivor Advocacy Program. “If you have a strong support system, folks tend to work through the healing process a little quicker.”

The program has been established for four years and is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice. It helped around 15 clients last year.

“We encourage them to go to the police, but we let them decide,” Strickland said. “There may be repercussions, especially if the person is known to them or the person is dating them.”

The program tries to advocate for the victims by giving them a place to talk freely, taking them to the O’Bleness Hospital if they were assaulted and seeking medical care, helping them talk to the nurses and giving them legal aid.

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