Rivera said more than 1,117 calls were made on the Violence Intervention Program’s 24-hour hotline in 2013. The same year, 2,100 counseling sessions were provided for victims, 70 individuals were placed in safe housing and 2,410 referrals were made to community support services. Just because it doesn’t often get reported to police, Rivera said, certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem in the area.
In fact, most of the time, Rivera said, victims of sexual assault or violent crimes make the choice not to call police. This is for a variety of reasons, he said.
“We visit victims in the hospital and they don’t want the police involved,” Rivera said, “because they don’t want to be blamed, or they’re scared, or because we live in such a small community and they’re afraid of the consequences.”
Rivera agreed that most assaults are done by a friend, family member or co-worker of the victim, but attacks by strangers happen too, he said.
“We do know that it happens,” Rivera said, “because anything could happen. And we have to be prepared for that.”
According to the United States Department of Justice, Rivera said, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every two minutes. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, he said, and among all the victims, about nine out of ten are female.
Chief Nayor, first and foremost, stressed the importance of not walking alone at night. Having some foresight and situational preparedness will help lower the risk of possible assault, he said. For instance, if you have to walk by yourself, only travel on well-lit, well-traveled roadways and keep your focus. Although pretending to talk into a cell phone may deter attackers because they will know you are in immediate connection with someone, it could also suggest that you are distracted. Never text and walk, Nayor said, as you will have no idea what’s going on around you.