WASHINGTON — There is an alarming spike being reported in D.C. crime that doesn't involve yellow tape or flashing police lights. Sex abuse offenses often go unnoticed in the community. But MPD reports, the rate has skyrocketed by 111%.
Some advocates argue that increase may not be a bad thing.
Police scanners send emergency crews and the media to crime scenes, but there is no public response when a victim reports sexual abuse. The numbers alone are sounding an alarm. According to DC police, sex abuse crimes are up 111% with 38 so far in 2023, compared to 18 this time in 2022.
“We have seen, especially an increase, with student survivors on different college campuses and universities,” Naida Henao, the head of engagement at Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC), said.
According to MPD’s online crime card, sex abuse peaked in January with eight reported in just one week. Those numbers started to decline, but are creeping back up again. The online crime map shows most cases occurred in Ward 6.
"We don't even have the entire picture," Henao said. "But secondly, there's also been a significant shift in the District after 2019."
That's when the Sexual Assault Victim’s Amendment Act was implemented, which increased access to community resources.
“Before 2019, sexual assault survivors, if they wanted to access a medical forensic exam and an advocate, would have to go to MedStar Washington Hospital Center to receive that and that was the only place in the District," Henao explained. "Now that 2019 law has made it so that folks could access an advocate outside of the hospital and in the community instead. So what could be happening here is an increase in police reports because people feel safer doing so.”
Since 2012, NVRDC has advocated for sex abuse survivors from ages 13 to 80 of all genders.
“It's not necessarily the stereotypes that we think about -- you know, a stranger in the bush," Henao said. "The people who cause harm could vary and could be someone that is familiar to the victim, someone that they work with, or his member of the family. If someone has touched you or done something to you without your consent, that you are a survivor and that we and many other resources in the District here to support you.”
If you or a friend need help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Here's the number: 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673) or the DC Victim Hotline. 844-4 HELP DC (844-443-5732).