The number of reported rapes in Berkeley spiked in 2012, nearly doubling 2011’s total.
Reported rapes rose from 20 in 2011 to 39 in 2012, according to crime statistics from 2012, presented by Berkeley police officers to the City Council in a special workshop last Tuesday. This is the highest number of reported rapes in Berkeley since 2000.
At the session, council members raised concerns over the fact that these incidents are largely occurring in Berkeley’s student-aged population — late teens to 30s — and that the majority of incidents happen between acquaintances, friends or people in former dating relationships.
“When someone thinks of rape, they think of a stranger attacking a woman on the street, or in her home,” said Berkeley police Capt. Andrew Greenwood. “But this is very rare in Berkeley.”
Of the incidents, there were only two reported “stranger” rapes on the street, with one completed and one attempted.
Alcohol and drugs are often involved in both city and campus reports of rape. Substance abuse played a role in nearly half of the city’s 39 incidents — 30 of which were rapes, with nine attempted rapes.
“Alcohol can play a large part in sexual assaults,” said UCPD spokesperson Lt. Eric Tejada. “At one point, the number of (campus) reports involving alcohol was almost 100 percent.”
While the number of rapes reported to the city’s police department has risen, UCPD has not seen a similar increase for incidents that occur on campus property. The rate has held steady at about two rapes per year for the past few years.
Many rapes, however, can go unverified or unreported to any officials, with students confidentially reporting to campus officials but never to the police, according to Allan Creighton, who manages the EmpowerU program through campus University Health Services.
EmpowerU, which commenced in 2011, requires all incoming students to attend a seminar about the potential for sexual assault and unwanted attention in a campus and urban setting.
Since the program’s inception, Creighton reports campus social services have seen a general “uptick” in the number of confidential reports by students.
“It’s possible that more students are reporting to us because they are beginning to be familiar with what counts as being hurt in these ways,” Creighton said.
City police, university police and campus officials all stress that if rapes or sexual assaults of any kind go unreported, it can be very difficult for a victim to get assistance or for a perpetrator to be caught.
“The No. 1 message we send is you can do things to prevent this,” Creighton said. “The No. 2 is that if this happens, it is not your fault. It doesn’t have to do with how you were dressed, and people don’t go out to be in abusive relationships.”
Megan Messerly covers city government. Contact her at [email protected]