GOSHEN – In a filled classroom at the Orange County Emergency Services Center in Goshen, county mental health workers, representatives from Orange County Rape Crisis, victim advocacy representatives, County Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller, District Attorney David Hoovler, police officers and representatives from the sheriff’s office, held an informative session where they proclaimed April 6 as “Start By Believing Day.” This theme is a reference to the long history of women not being believed when they say they have been sexually assaulted. Today, mental health experts are changing the image of these women and beginning by recognizing them as ‘survivors.’
DA Hoovler said that the big change in recent years is the increase of trauma comfort and support services up front for the person assaulted.
“What has really changed in the last 15 years is how we approach them. We approach them with a more victim centered investigation, more trauma informed approach, where we try to provide more services and more support to the victims up front,” he said.
Orange County sees a lot of incidents on college campuses where the social dynamics are ever changing, he said. Most of these incidents are directed at women. The reports filed by men are more often about individuals under the age of 15.
He emphasized that the cycle can only be broken by people coming forward, especially since convictions can be challenging because of the presumption of innocence, especially if the assault is ‘stranger on stranger’ and there are no witnesses, making many victims fear they won’t be believed.
That is why statistics show that only about 310 of every 1,000 assaults are even reported. Hoovler does not think that bail reform is a significant factor in repeat offenses. “Some low-level offenses are bail eligible, but in most cases the serious stuff is covered,” he said. The DA ended by reassuring, “There is life after it happens – You can move on to live a happy and productive life”.
Another of the reasons that only one-third of sexual assaults is reported is because of fear of retaliation by the person who committed the crime. Of 230 reports, only 4.6 rapists will be incarcerated. Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller emphasized that “When you hold a perpetrator accountable, you deter the next crime from happening.” She said that law enforcement understands the dynamics much better today. and she thanked them and the county legal teams for working with her staff and supporting their programs.