As an organization, we are committed to providing excellent survivor services to individual clients and to strengthening relationships and communication with partners to improve survivors’ experiences when interacting with universities, medical systems, law enforcement, and the legal system.
On Wednesday, April 6, STAR staff became aware of a Daily Reveille article that quoted an LSU Police Department spokesperson making statements that reinforced misinformed and damaging beliefs about rape and those who report their assaults to authorities. We at STAR were troubled by these statements and reached out to LSUPD Chief Rabalais to express our concerns.
Our staff has a high opinion of LSUPD officers who conduct investigations of reported rapes because, in our experience, they have consistently demonstrated professional and respectful responses to survivors we serve. In addition to the positive experiences survivors have had with LSUPD officers after reporting their rapes, LSU still must contend with the reality that the vast majority of students who are raped do not feel safe to report to police or college officials. It is difficult to prove a negative, but those who work as advocates know that most survivors have not formally reported the crime committed against them.
Fortunately, reports of rape have increased consistently over the past few years. We say “fortunately,” because we know that this does not indicate an increase in incidents of rape, only an increase in reporting. How representatives of law enforcement agencies speak publicly on this issue can influence individuals’ decisions on whether or not to report. The statements made by LSUPD, as published, unfortunately validated students’ concerns about reporting and invalidated their experiences of rape.
We wish for all law enforcement to take sexual assault seriously and understand how underreported rape is — yes, even at LSU and all around Louisiana — and to use this understanding both when working with individuals who report having been raped and when making public statements about the issue of sexual assault.
We at STAR stand with survivors of sexual trauma. We serve clients regardless of their decision to report and regardless of when their assault occurred. If you have been impacted by sexual trauma, please contact our 24/7 confidential hotline at 855-435-STAR to learn more about the services and resources we offer. You may also visit www.star.ngo to learn more about us.