Two-hundred-four rapes occurred in Prince George’s County in 2010, according to the most recent report from the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center. There were 1,228 statewide that year, according to the same report.
The common denominator between all these victims, and victims of other sexual assaults?
The offender finds them vulnerable, according to Cheryl Banks. She’s a community educator with the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center at the Prince George’s Hospital.
And the common denominator of the offenders?
They commit their crime simply because they can, Banks said.
It was a timely lesson to learn on Monday evening, , as April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Banks explained the differences between rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse; the punishments for sex offenders; and details about the center for which she works.
Victims of sexual assault can find medical and mental health support at the center. Forensic examiners collect evidence after a sexual assault; medical injuries from the assault are treated; and victims can receive counseling, all free of charge.
If victims choose, they can receive these services at the center without filing a police report. Most rapes are never reported, and of the ones that are, most are never prosecuted, Banks said.
But victims have until one year after the incident to step forward, and until they do, the cases cannot be processed, Banks added.
To avoid becoming a victim of a sexual assault, avoid vulnerability, Banks said, and she detailed some of the more relevant tips for a college town, like College Park: be conscientious about drug and alcohol use, lock your doors, and have a buddy for walking home. When out jogging, stick to the roads if you can, where you're visible to more people. And don't use an iPod with ear buds, which block out noise and zone you out, Banks said.
Those who would like to learn more about the center and sexual assault can attend Take Back the Night, hosted at the Prince George’s Hospital Center pavilion on Thursday. Victims of sexual violence will share their stories, and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks will be the guest speaker. Learn more about the event here.
If you'd like to reach the center, call 301-618-3154.