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Prescott changing approach to violent sex crimes

PHOENIX — The city of Prescott is changing the way it handles reports of violent sexual crime.

The city joined the Start by Believing campaign which urges emergency personnel to change the way they respond to sexual assault victims.

“If a person died in a bus crash, you wouldn’t say to their loved ones, ‘That’s what they get for taking the bus,'” said Kathryn Chapman, executive director of the Yavapai Family Advocacy Center in Prescott. “When we respond to a sexual assault victim, a lot of times things are said, like ‘Why were you out late,’ ‘Why were they wearing what you were wearing,’ ‘Why were you drinking,’ a lot of victim blaming.”

The campaign also focuses on bringing harsher penalties against those convicted of sexual assault and making sure the victim’s report is taken seriously. If a victim fears they won’t be believed, it’s likely they won’t report the crime.

“Its goal is to support victims of sexual violence who bravely come forward to seek justice and healing,” said Chapman.

A Justice Department survey found that 54 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. According to rapists attack an average six times, meaning one report left by the wayside could equal five more victims.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that nearly one in five women reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.