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For many victims of sexual assault, law enforcement agencies and social support groups are frequently unable to offer help due to the underreporting of crimes and inaccurate crime statistics, according to a new study.
As a result, such crimes are frequently misreported or undercounted in ongoing crime statistics. Similarly, this has led many in the public to become confused by what qualifies as an assault, according to the findings.
The National Research Council conducted the study, hoping to recommend some ways law enforcement can improve handling sexual assault cases.
At the same time, they compared differing methods of classifying sexual assaults across different agencies and jurisdictions.
“The end result is that they provide different estimates of the extent of rape and sexual assault,“ the study concluded. “This in turn creates confusion for the public, for law enforcement, for policymakers, for researchers and for victim advocacy groups.”
“The study recommends the use of
universal language to classify assaults.”
According to the report, 80 percent of such crimes go unreported to the police. As a result, the study recommends the use of clearer, more universal language to classify assaults.
Among other changes, the report recommends assaults be defined and described in terms of the impact to health and not merely as criminal acts.
Sex crime laws in various states differ widely in how they define force and consent, often without accounting for those unable to render true consent.
As a result, the study warns law enforcement is often guilty of using an outdated perception of rape involving strangers.
That overlooks how most sexual assaults occur between people who know each other and that most never involve any physical force or threat of violence.
In many cases, experts advise, the lack of physical evidence may hamper a response from law enforcement.
In addition, it cites a perception that if the victim had in any way encouraged the assault, a different response is frequently seen from law enforcement.