Rising number of sexual assault and rape allegations concerns ad - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Rising number of sexual assault and rape allegations concerns advocates

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A rising issue of rape and sexual assault in the military has prompted major reform, according to reports from the Department of Defense. 

In 2013, the Department of Defense estimated 70 military members encountered a sexual assault or rape every day - nearly three every hour.

Sexual assault experts in Columbus say they have seen a rise in victims coming forward, but there still may be many more.

"The stigma that accompanies sexual assault is tremendous," said Kyle Bair, director of the Sexual Assault Support Center.

It's something that keeps many victims from speaking up against sexual assault perpetrators and rapists. The Sexual Assault Support Center has seen an almost 50 percent increase in victims seeking help over recent years. Numbers have spiked from 100 to almost 160 victims seeking help annually.

Many more may be dealing with their assault on their own as research shows one in 10 victims will report the crime. 

"The statistics going forward are pretty dismal, we say less than three percent even get to court," Bair said.

Something else may be adding to the fear of seeking legal justice and the stigma many rape victims face: false claims.

Bair explained that less than two percent of rape allegations that make it to a court are a false report.

"It could be revenge, it could be an alibi, it could be to receive compensation," explained military defense attorney Kyle Fischer. 

Yet that small percentage can still do a lot of damage to many.

"The accused person, who's the victim of a false allegation. The time a resources used to prosecute this individual, there can be many ramifications," Fischer said.

Fischer explains when it comes to service members, a false accusation could put their career on hold, tarnish reputations, and cost the alleged a lot of money. It could also generate negative feelings of reporting a sexual assault crime, adding even more trauma to a victim.

"Victims blame themselves. Maybe it's what they were doing at the time, maybe it's who they were with at the time, but again, perpetrators pray on targets and they make victims targets," Bair said. 

Fischer said one of his clients was recently cleared of a mis-identification rape charge through DNA evidence, but not after spending two months in jail and having his military career on the line.

If you are a victim of sexual assault you can contact the Sexual Assault Support Hotline at 706-571-6010.

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