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Lincoln police see increase in sexual assault reports

June 15, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln’s police chief says the #MeToo movement has propelled an increase in sexual assault reports to his department.

Chief Jeff Bliemeister told The Lincoln Journal Star that one-third of the 128 rapes reported between Jan. 1 and May 23 occurred at least one year before officers were notified. The Police Department’s analysis shows only 11 percent of the reported sexual assaults in 2015 occurred at least one year prior.

The average report in 2018 was made 17 months after the rape occurred, according to the department’s findings.

Bliemeister credited the reporting trend to the dozens of accusers who made sexual misconduct allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and others in the entertainment industry. The #MeToo movement gained momentum in October after journalists documented the allegations, sparking women across the U.S. to speak out about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.

“There’s nothing else that had occurred that would lead to that kind of change,” Bliemeister said.

The majority of those coming forward to report rape are women and girls ranging in age from 11 to 25, according to the department’s analysis.

“There are groups who feel they’ve been empowered by this particular awareness movement and they want us to know but they fully recognize from the beginning of their reporting that prosecution could be difficult,” the police chief said.

These cases are being handled by investigators that are specifically trained to handle rape cases in which substantial time has passed, Bliemeister said. Investigators in these cases face challenges such as a lack of physical evidence, lost digital evidence and witnesses who have trouble recalling what happened, he said.

Bliemeister said he’s encouraged by seeing more victims come forward to report these crimes, which have long held a stigma.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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