Rape Crisis Center sees more rape victims, victim trends in 2016

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Hindsight is giving the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire new direction for the New Year.

The center is tracking some positive trends from 2015 to 2016, but RCC's executive director says their advocacy work is far from over.

When it comes to victim information, the Rape Crisis Center breaks down age, relationship to the assaulter and location of the incident to help them focus their outreach activity.

The number of evidence kits collected from victims, commonly referred to as rape kits, are up by ten. Those kits were submitted to the GBI by local police.

"The discouraging piece for us here at the Rape Crisis Center is the fact that some of the themes and the elements of who rape happens to, how it happens and where it happens. It has remained constant over the last three years," said Kesha Gibson-Carter, executive director for the Rape Crisis Center.

Gibson-Carter said college-aged women being assaulted by an acquaintance tend to lead the victim demographics. Alcohol and drug use is also a common factor. She added 2017 started with just such a case.

A goal on the horizon for the RCC is starting up the Bar Bystander Program again, which teaches bartenders how to react if they witness a situation where someone could potentially be taken advantage of.

Another goal for Gibson-Carter is doing everything she can to follow the progress of closing out each and every backlogged rape kit, knowing each kit can lead to an arrest.

"On the shelves is not just a victim's DNA, it's not just a potential suspect's DNA. On those shelves is justice for these victims. On those shelves is an opportunity to prevent rape from happening to someone else," Gibson-Carter said.

More than getting a dangerous predator off the street, Gibson-Carter pointed out arrests can help with victim recovery.

"If an arrest or some semblance of justice is all that they have, and all that they can hold onto, that's what we are in the fight for."

Along with numbers of victims coming forward increasing in 2016, so too did the numbers of arrests. The RCC only heard about nine sexual assault arrests in 2015. In 2016, there were 28 from all over the center's coverage area.

The Rape Crisis Center is also working on outreach in outlying counties, along with bolstering the numbers of the Sexual Assault Response Team, made up of area law enforcement and Crisis Center staff.

Across Georgia, there are still about 4,000 rape kits that technicians still need to process.

At the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Coastal Lab - which covers our area - they have yet to process 265 kits. The Coastal Lab estimates it can examine those kits in about a year and a half.

The GBI estimates it'll take five years to clear its entire backlog.

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