According to the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes. An even more shocking statistic is that 77 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the rape victim, be it an acquaintance or relative.
Unfortunately, one of the consequences of such heinous acts are the feeling of inadequacy, helplessness and fear that drive many victims to never even report the crime. The FBI reports that only 37 percent of all rapes are reported to the authorities. This statistic not only point to a problem on a nationwide level, but according to the Maryland Sheriffs' Association, it is a problem currently plaguing communities here in the State of Maryland.
"It is so devastating to see the toll that rape is taking on so many lives," said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis. "One rape is too many. We have a responsibility to our daughters, sisters, wives and friends to give them the resources necessary to keep them from becoming a statistic."
In 2003 there were 38 rapes and attempted rapes reported in Charles County and in 2004 there were 32. So far in 2005, there have been 13 reported rapes and attempted.
The Journal of Forensic Sciences reports that of the 22 substances used in drug-facilitated rape, alcohol is the most common finding in investigations. Often, innocently joining someone for a couple of drinks could lead to what is most commonly known as date rape. Research has found that 90 percent of date rape occurrences take place when either the victim or attacker had been drinking.
So, how can women in the community take the preventative measures to keep from being victimized? A group of rapists were interviewed in a prison about what they look for in a potential victim. The following are facts women should consider:
1. The time of day men are most likely to attack and rape a woman is in the early morning between five and eight-thirty in the morning. The number one place women are abducted from are grocery store parking lots. The second are parking lots/garages and the third are public restrooms.
2. There are a few details men look for in a potential victim. These include hairstyle (attackers are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other long hairstyle that could easily be grabbed) and clothing (loose clothing is easy to remove quickly). Attackers also look for women who are on their cell phones, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are distracted and can be easily overpowered.
3. A woman who "puts up a fight" discourages the aggressor because the attempted rape becomes too time consuming. The men interviewed said they would not pick on a woman carrying an umbrella or any similar object that can be used in defense from a distance.
4. The following are a few defense mechanisms to keep in mind: If someone is following behind you on a street, garage, elevator or stairwell, look the person straight in the face and ask them a question or make general small talk. Once you've looked them in the face and could identify them in a lineup, you lose appeal as a target.
5. If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell 'stop,' 'stay back' or 'I have pepper spray.' Most of the rapists indicated that they would leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back.
6. If someone grabs you, you can't beat them with strength but you can by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or the upper inner thigh, hard.
7. When the attacker puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them as far back as possible. After the initial hit, always go for the groin.
8. Always be aware of your surroundings. Take someone with you if you can and don't dismiss any odd behavior. Go with your instincts.
The Charles County Sheriff's Office reminds citizens to notify the Sheriff's Office if they see a suspicious person and officers will respond to investigate the report.
"We want women to know they are not alone. If they feel unsafe, they can call us and we will help them," said Sheriff Davis. "And if a woman does become the victim of this horrendous crime, I urge them to report it to us. We will help them through it, not just by apprehending the suspect, but by ensuring victims have all the help and support they need to get through such an emotionally-painful ordeal."