Reports of rape in Fort Collins occur at a far greater rate than in the rest of Colorado – and in all but four of the nation's medium-to-large cities – according to data released by the FBI this week.
In 2004, there were 129 reported rapes in Fort Collins, a city of about 127,000.
Of the more than 230 American cities with 100,000 or more residents, Fort Collins had the fifth-highest rate of reported rapes in 2004, a Collegian analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics found.
The FBI's data is comprised of rapes reported to law enforcement agencies only and does not take into account convictions, acquittals or rapes that have gone unreported.
The city's police officials were also quick to point out that statistics could be misleading. Colorado statutes don't mention "rape" but rather the more encompassing "sexual assault" – which does not necessarily mean penetration, said Rita Davis, Fort Collins Police Department spokeswoman.
Only Flint, Mich.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Cleveland, Ohio; and Tallahassee, Fla. had a higher rate of reported rape than Fort Collins. Flint had the most, with one reported rape per every 862 residents, according to the data.
But the other four cities also had soaring reported violent crime rates – which include assault, robbery, rape and murder.
The rates range from Flint's one violent crime per 52 residents to Tallahassee's one per 103 residents, putting the number of reported rapes in line with reports of other violent crimes.
Fort Collins' reported violent crime rate, however, was relatively low at one violent crime per 355 residents, including the number of reported rapes.
Along with Arvada, Fort Collins is the only other Colorado city with more than 100,000 residents in which no murders were reported in 2004, according to the data.
Denver, with a population nearly five times that of Fort Collins, had 87 reported murders.
Compared to the other 18 Colorado cities with more than 20,000 residents, Fort Collins tops the list in the rate of reported rapes with one per every 985 residents, according to the FBI data.
"College towns have higher rates of sexual assault," Davis said.
She added that one reason for the prevalence of reports of sexual assault in Fort Collins is because of an extensive public education offensive conducted years ago to inform the city about a local rapist.
"We did a tremendous amount of education on sexual assault" and this made victims feel more comfortable coming forward to report rape, she said.
Ryan Barone, the Men's Project coordinator in the Office of Women's Programs and Studies at CSU, said a low rate of sexual assault reports doesn't necessarily mean there's a low rate of sexual assault. The pain associated with reporting sexual assault often prevents victims from doing so, he said.
"The reporting process can be extremely difficult and long for survivors," he said. "They often have to deal with a lot of victim-blaming, and subsequently do not continue with the reporting process."
Davis said stranger rapes are rare and the city has only had two or three so far this year. Most sexual assault is either incest or date rape, she said.
Students at CSU were alarmed to hear the high rate of reported rape in Fort Collins, but attributed the statistics to the culture of an alcohol-charged college town.
"I'm surprised," said Chad Padilla, freshman psychology major. But added, "A lot of the population around here is college students. Sex is one thing that's on a lot of people's minds."
Nearly a quarter of the Fort Collins population attends CSU.
Sarah Hockensmith, a senior computer science major, said more city money should be put into awareness programs.
"You don't hear about it at all," she said of the prevalence of reported rape in Fort Collins. "The media doesn't cover it enough."
Barone called alcohol "the number one rape-facilitating drug," but emphasized that alcohol is never the cause of sexual assault.
"It takes a perpetrator with the intent to do harm for a sexual assault to occur," he said.
In Colorado, 45,000-resident Grand Junction is second behind Fort Collins in the rate of reported rapes, with one per 1,094 residents. Englewood and Colorado Springs were third and fourth, with one per every 1,183 and 1,357 residents, respectively.
Again, all those cities had high violent crime rates relative to Fort Collins. Grand Junction had one violent crime per 164 residents; Englewood, one per 254 residents; and Colorado Springs, one per 230 residents.
Castle Rock was the safest Colorado city with no reported rapes despite a population of 30,000, and a violent crime rate of one per 1,208 residents.
The FBI data was the result of voluntary cooperation from 17,000 city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, according to an FBI press release.
The Office of Women's Programs and Studies has a Victim's Assistance Team, a group of staff and students who provide a 24-hour support hotline for anyone seeking services related to sexual assault, Barone said. The number is 491-7111.