Authorities are seeing an increase in reported forcible rape cases in Isla Vista, according to 2016 crime reports recently released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Overall, sheriff’s deputies investigated 56 forcible rape reports in the county last year, a jump from 40 in 2015. The Sheriff’s Office attributes the increase to the 23 forcible rape reports in Isla Vista in 2016 compared with 13 such reports in 2015.
There were 48 sexual assaults in Isla Vista reported to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol in 2016, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.
“The reason for the increase in reported rapes and sexual assaults could be the result of more awareness regarding these crimes, and victims feeling comfortable coming forward to report the incident,” Hoover wrote in an email to Noozhawk.
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“The Sheriff’s Office does everything we can to identify the perpetrator and bring them to justice.”
The Sheriff’s Office released its 2016 Part I and Part II Uniform Crime Reporting numbers last month. Under the UCR program, Part I crimes include homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Part II crimes include assaults; sex offenses, except for forcible rape, prostitution and commercialized vice; embezzlement; forgery and counterfeiting; fraud; vandalism; weapons possession; drug abuse violations; and driving under the influence, among others.
The Santa Barbara County compilations revealed that the number of property and violent crimes increased slightly last year from 2015 data.
Hoover noted that, according to the Bureau of Justice, women ages 18 to 24 are the most likely victims of sexual assault.
“This statistic is especially concerning and important to us regarding Isla Vista since the population is largely made up of that exact demographic,” she said.
Hoover said the department does not have numbers on how many of the reported sexual assault victims are college students, or whether they are male or female.
Under California law, rape is defined as “nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished by means of threats, force or fraud, or with a victim who is unconscious or incapable of consenting.”
The legal definition of sexual assault is “unwanted touching of another person’s intimate parts.”
Of the reported sexual assault cases in Isla Vista, 74 percent were reported to have occurred on the weekend between 9 p.m. Friday and 11 p.m. Sunday, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Forty percent of the suspects were acquainted with the victim, either as a friend or as having mutual friends, Hoover said.
Alcohol was reportedly involved in more than half of the reported sexual assaults last year in Isla Vista.
Hoover said the Sheriff’s Office “encourages students to know their limits and look out for each other, especially if they see someone who seems like they are intoxicated.”
The department takes a team approach to investigating when a sexual assault is reported, she said.
Deputies work with crisis counselors, rape crisis advocates and medical professionals to address the survivor’s needs.
“A sexual assault can be traumatic for a victim and can impact the rest of their lives,” Hoover said. “Confidentiality is of the utmost importance, and we don’t want anyone to feel ashamed or intimidated by reporting the sexual assault.”
Hoover said authorities are investigating three reported rapes this year.