Tampa, FL -- Despite scientific advancements that have led to improved arrest records in almost all fields of lawn enforcement, there's one particular crime officials say continues to go vastly under-reported and prosecuted. It's rape.
On Thursday, Bay area police chiefs unveiled a plan to turn that around, called ConsentFlorida.org.
“No one wants to talk about it. Few victims can even talk about it. And it's long past due for the silence to end.” said Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Brevan, who unveiled the program.
Rape, says Bevan, has gone underreported far too long. The "no means no" message, she said, has not been getting through.
Bevan cited statistics that show one of every six women will become the victim of a sexual assault. Eight out of 10 victims will know their assailant. And yet only six out of every thousand cases are prosecuted.
“It breaks our hearts and other victims are out there who are fearful for whatever reason of coming forward to the police,” said Bevan.
One key strategy? Use an army of public school resource officers to teach high school kids the moral, ethical and legal concepts of consent. A program which could begin as early as next spring.
“I think they should definitely have the training. They should definitely be available to these kids,” said Abigayle Dhani with Suncoast Center's Children's Advocacy Center.
It’s badly needed, she said, considering teens are dating at an earlier age with no concept of social norms. As a result, says Dhani, the sexual assault rate is even higher among teens.
It’s also complicated further by social media.
“They might've taken pictures. They're using that as a threat to keep them from coming forward and telling anybody that this assault happened,” said Dhani.
ConsentFlorida.org will also launch a public ad campaign, as well as train officers in Special Victims Units to use techniques proven to show compassion and help victims recall more details.
That, they say, can translate to more arrests.
“Compassion is what we're looking for,” said Bevan.
The program will be paid for, in large part, through public donations. The first major public fundraiser has already been set for this coming September at the Tradewinds Resort on St. Petersburg Beach.
For more details on that, and the program itself, click here.