Dec 072004
Authors: Jill Krisl

Fort Collins has had 97 reported rape cases this year, and a majority of the victims know their attackers, according to Fort Collins police.

She said this is nationwide trend, said Rita Davis, press information officer for Fort Collins Police Services.

Approximately 66 percent of rape victims know their attackers, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network Web site,

Another study specifically on sexually assaulted college women showed nine out of 10 knew their attackers, according to the Office on Violence Against Women's Web site.

"We see this happening because in order to assault someone, an attacker needs to be close to them first," said Chris Linder, coordinator of the Victim Assistance Team at CSU.

She said people do not realize a rapist is usually an acquaintance.

"We often think of the stranger jumping out from the bushes and attacking," Linder said

Kate James, a junior microbiology major, said she was unaware this trend existed.

"It makes you wonder about the people you hang around," James said.

The age group at highest risk for sexual assault is people ages 12 to 34, according to But other factors increase the risk for college students.

While in college, students are exploring new relationships and getting to know a lot of new people, Linder said. She said students then have more trust for these new acquaintances even though they don't really know them.

Elevated drug and alcohol use is also a factor.

"Alcohol doesn't cause sexual assault," Linder said. "But it reduces inhibitions, which could lead to an assault."

Individuals often make poor choices and put themselves in bad positions when drinking alcohol, said Rae Bontz, public information officer for the Loveland Police Services.

Bontz said people should be thinking ahead and be aware of the potential for sexual assault.

"Don't think it can't happen to you because it can," Bontz said.

Education about rape and sexual assault is the best defense tactic, especially about the danger of an acquaintance assault, Bontz said.

"It is easier to believe a rapist is a stranger, because it is easier to protect yourself from it," Linder said.

Common methods of protection from sexual assault include locking house doors, never walking alone at night or in deserted areas, and never leaving a drink unattended at a bar or party, Bontz said.

But Bontz said there is no clear way to protect yourself from someone you know.

"Just be aware," Bontz said.

He also said if people is ever doubt their safety, they should call the police.

"We try to raise awareness," Davis said. "And encourage people to report."

Davis said in 2001, after the Troy Graves arrest, there was a strong educational push toward awareness and reporting.

Graves committed six counts of rape in Philadelphia, one of which ended in murder, and six counts of rape and sexual assault in Fort Collins.

Greater acceptance and support for those who report a rape seems to be a trait now among the Fort Collins community, Davis said.

"I think the community is supportive," James said. "I personally wouldn't be hesitant to report."

Nationally, about one in every three cases of rape goes unreported, according to It is believed this under-reporting is related to the fact that many victims know their attacker and are afraid of repercussions the accusations may have.




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