Today, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced the release of a detailed report which tracks the activities and progress of the City’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) over the course of the past year. The SART is a multi-disciplinary team with key stakeholders from law enforcement, the State’s Attorney’s Office, the medical community, and local victims advocates. The team has been working cooperatively since July 2010 to address the City’s handling of rape and sexual assault cases, following a Baltimore Sun investigation that revealed that Baltimore had the highest percentage of unfounded rape cases of any city in the country for the past four years.
“It is my sincere hope that victims of rape or sexual assault know that that they are not to blame and that they have somewhere to turn for help and support,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “I am grateful for our SART team and our private and State partners, for their time and commitment to the people of Baltimore.”
The report details the SART’s activities, including the work of an audit committee, which reviewed 134 cases of rape and/or sexual assault that had been unfounded between January 2009 and August 2010. In addition, a best practices committee was formed to conduct a review of national best practices, craft a SART mission statement, and make recommendations for revisions to policies and procedures across all participating disciplines.
A number of key processes within the Baltimore Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office have been strengthened as a result of this process.
The SART report reveals that a year later, Baltimore City has seen:
- A 93% decrease in the number of unfounded rape and attempted rape cases (as of May 31, 2011), compared to the same period last year. As of May 31, 2011, 5 reports of rape were deemed unfounded.
- A 68% increase in the number of reported rapes (as of May 31, 2011). Given that incidences of rape and sexual assault are vastly under-reported, this is positive as more of victims are reporting their assaults. (National studies show that only 36% of non-stranger and 55% of stranger assaults are reported to the police.)
Additionally, a public outreach committee made up of partners from the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Baltimore City Mayor’s Office, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Mercy Medical Center’s SAFE Program, and TurnAround, Inc., has developed a city-wide outreach campaign to help sexual assault victims. Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced the launch of the Rape Is Not Your Fault campaign at today’s press conference.
The goal of the campaign is to promote the City’s helpline – a 24-hour hotline with trained staff, which connects rape victims to assistance and resources. The campaign includes advertising on city transit, a public service announcement from the Mayor that features the voices of sexual assault survivors from Baltimore City, and a website.
The campaign was designed by a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art and was reviewed by a group of rape victims in the city for their thoughts and feedback.
The City’s rape helpline is available to take calls from victims of rape and sexual assault 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (443) 279-0379. All calls are free and confidential.
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