Feb 232006
Authors: Vimal Patel

Victims of sexual assault have several places to go in Fort Collins for treatment or counseling services.

At Fort Collins Police Services contact Melissa Funk, Victims Services Coordinator at (970) 224-6089.

At CSU, a trained victim's advocate from the Victim Assistance Team is available at all times at (970) 491-7111.

Both reports of forcible rape to the CSU Police Department last year were hazy, but one fact is clear: Alcohol played a major role in each incident.

According to police reports, in December a 40-year-old woman reported being raped near the corner of Mason and University streets near the railroad tracks.

Her husband later reported that a man tackled her from behind, shoved her face into the dirt and raped her while she walked home alone from a bar at 2 a.m.

Last February, police investigated a possible sexual assault involving a 17-year-old in Summit Hall who drank until she vomited, according to police reports.

The girl, now 18 and attending CSU, said she doesn't remember having intercourse, a friend of the girl told police in a statement.

No charges were filed in either case.

These two reported incidents are shrouded in an alcohol-induced haze, and experts said that's not unusual at all for cases involving alleged sexual assault.

"Nationally, more than 80 percent of sexual assaults included alcohol consumption by either the victim or the perpetrator," said Chris Linder, director of the Office of Women's Programs and Studies.

People often focus attention on "roofies" and other so-called date-rape drugs, but alcohol is clearly the drug most prevalent in sexual assault cases, said Tamika D. Payne, executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Fort Collins had an extremely high number of reported rapes in 2004, according to a Collegian analysis of FBI crime statistics.

Of the more than 230 American cities with 100,000 or more residents, Fort Collins had the fifth-highest rate of reported rapes with one per 985 residents, the analysis found.

Fort Collins police officials attributed the unusually high number to the city being a college town, and to an extensive sexual assault education campaign that made victims more comfortable coming forward.

According to a 2001 research article for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, sexual assault is highly underreported.

Several reasons exist for this, including victims' fear that they will be ridiculed, won't be believed or their uncertainty that what actually occurred was rape, the article states.

"We live in a society where victims are blamed," said Payne, adding that the shame and guilt of coming forward prevents many victims from doing so.

Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation), is one of alcohol's most fervent critics.

Tvert said that one way to cut down on sexual assault is by giving students a "safer choice" – legalizing marijuana.

"If they want to cut down on serious alcohol problems, they need to give students an alternative," Tvert said.

"In an ideal world, no one would want to use marijuana or alcohol. But if you're a realist, you understand that kids want to party. If they want to use one that's less harmful than the other, they shouldn't be prevented from doing so."

Vimal Patel can be reached at campus@collegian.com.


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