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Rape In Gainesville And The Fight Against It

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Isabella Jones wanted to go dancing last summer, like she had done so many times before.  She and her friends danced late into the night before leaving for an after party.

Jones never made it to the party.

“You Don’t Think It’ll Happen To You”

Jones was 25-years-old when she was raped.

She wants people to know it could happen to anyone, no matter who they are.

“The most cliche thing is everyone says you don’t think it’ll happen to you, but you really don’t think it’ll happen to you ever,” she said.

Jones went dancing at The Atlantic Nightspot in Gainesville, and met a group of people who invited her and her friends to a party.  After the club closed, they all talked about who should drive and who should ride with whom.

As they stood outside, Jones met a guy who offered her a ride. She thought everyone knew him.

They left together for the after party, but he took her to his house. She began feeling weird about him once some time passed and no one showed up at the house for the party.

When she asked him where everyone was, he said they were coming. He began to initiate things with her. She kept telling him no. She knew she had to put up a fight.

“He continued and I eventually was able to get out from under him, and I remember laying there thinking like this is really happening to me … something that everyone says can happen to anyone, is happening to me,” Jones said.

She broke free from the room and banged on his roommate’s door, who helped her out of the house and drove her to her car.  While in the car, Jones turned to social media to share her story. In doing so, she created evidence of what occurred that night — a decision that would ultimately help her start a legal case.

“I posted to Facebook that I was just raped because I wanted the time stamp, and I wanted the location,” Jones said.

  

After the attack, Jones got to see a side of sexual assault cases most people don’t know. Her healing process wasn’t just mental or emotional, but also physical. She was given shots to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, which made her sick for weeks from the side effects.

Throughout her recovery, Jones wanted to remain vocal. After posting on social media multiple times, she received supportive responses from family, friends and past victims who had remained silent. They helped her heal.  She knew she wasn’t alone, and she wanted to make sure they knew they weren’t alone either.

“It was sad, very, very sad. How many people it had happened to because we have statistics and we have numbers, but I think it’s much higher,” Jones said.

Jones’ outlet of social media is still a tool for her recovery. As soon as the mugshot of her rapist was released, she shared it on as many social media platforms as possible.

Jones wanted to let others know about him and what he did to her, and she wanted to prevent anyone else from being in her position. She doesn’t feel she did anything wrong that night, and she strongly believes a woman shouldn’t have to change her habits just to prevent a sexual assault or sexual battery.

“If we put more effort into educating people and making sure people are held accountable for their actions, rather than continually creating safe groups to go out in, maybe it wouldn’t happen so much,” Jones said.

She also believes educational programs should be started to teach adults not to rape. She wants these programs to be started at a young age, while students are in elementary school. Jones believes if members of society were educated while young, sexual assaults or sexual batteries would occur less often.

Regardless, Jones wants others to know a survivor needs to do what is best for herself throughout the healing process, no matter what medium is used to make that happen.

“You should talk about it,” she said. “Talk about it, write about it, draw about it, get it out of you because it will stay in there.”

Reported Rapes In Gainesville: 2014-2016 

The number of reported rape cases in Gainesville increased from 2014 to 2016, with 109 cases in 2014, 113 in 2015 and 156 in 2016.

Gainesville Police Department spokesman Ben Tobias said the number of reported cases doesn’t mean rapes have actually increased, but rather that people are reporting them more often.

“We don’t think that there’s any increase of the number of actual incidents,” Tobias said. “But we’re happy that we’re actually getting more and more people to come forward and tell us their story.”

While the number of male victims were low in comparison to female victims for each year, the number of male victims also increased. Reported male-victim cases totaled eight in 2014, seven in 2015 and 10 in 2016. In one case, no gender was identified.

Tobias noted that number could be larger if more male victims reported their rape.

“Male or female, no matter what your sexual orientation is as well, it’s okay to come forward and tell when you are a victim,” Tobias said.

Tobias said while there is a misconception that the majority of rapes happen by strangers, that isn’t the case for Gainesville.

“A majority of our rape cases, as with any college campus city, are going to be acquaintance rapes, and a lot of times, it’s going to be alcohol-induced rapes,” Tobias said. 

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), seven out of every 10 rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. This number includes acquaintances and current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends.

Reported Rapes On Campus: 2014-2016

The University of Florida Police Department investigated 18 reported rape cases from 2014 to 2016. The highest number of cases were reported from 1515 S.W. Archer Rd., or UF Health Shands Hospital, according to UFPD reports. Out of the 18 reported cases, four involved a male victim.

Tobias also said unreported rapes are a problem in college towns like Gainesville.

“For every report of rape we get, there’s probably two that go unreported,” he said.

UFPD sends out alerts when threats occur in real time or if threats pertain to students in any way, including alerts regarding sexual battery or sexual assault. A full list of UF Alerts and Timely Warnings from 2014-2016 can be found here.

What You Can Do: Information For Victims

Both the University of Florida Police Department and the Gainesville Police Department have programs to help sexual assault and sexual battery victims. Victim Advocates like Brittany Coleman are available to help victims through programs at the Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center and the Gainesville Police Department.

“We never assume that you’re going through X, Y and Z. Or we never assume that you need help this, this and this way” Coleman said.

Coleman said she wants to make it known that a victim of any violent crime is welcome to speak with a victim advocate. Nobody is required to report the crime in which they were a victim, and victim advocates are free of charge. Victim advocates are available and offer a variety of services for victims.

“We offer support groups. We offer advocacy through the criminal justice system,” Coleman said. “We can also go to court with people, help them get the things they need, in terms of housing or if they need referrals for food or things like that. We can help plug them into the community in whatever way they need.”

Victims who would like to speak with an advocate can do so by going to the Gainesville Police Department or the Alachua County Health Department during normal business hours. An appointment is not required to see an advocate. Victims can also choose to meet an advocate at a location in which they may feel most comfortable.

Victims can speak with an advocate by phone at (352) 264-6760 or the toll-free hotline, (866) 252-5439. The number for the RAINN Hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE.

If a sexual battery or sexual assault victim does not want to speak to a victim advocate, he or she can to go to reportrapegainesville.org to learn more about what they can do. If someone would like to report an incident, they can do so anonymously through the website.

Tobias was clear on what the best way to prevent rape is.

Rape Prevention

“When you talk about rape prevention, a lot of time the prevention tips get sent to the women,” he said. “Let’s face it … 99 percent of date rape incidents involve a female victim, and you rarely hear anything going to the guys. So, guys, it’s easy: Don’t rape women.”

Both GPD and UFPD do offer various self-defense programs for protection and prevention against rape. One such program is Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes for women.

Besides the RAD program and a victims’ advocate program, GPD and UFPD also offer a variety of self-defense courses for both men and women and programs on relationship violence. For more information on the programs or for tips on how to stay safe, visit GPD’s website or UFPD’s website.

Moving Forward: Isabella’s Story

Isabella Jones was among rape victims, who received help through the victim advocate service.

“One of my advocates was wonderful and made me feel very safe throughout the process,” she said.

Jones also sought counseling through a private therapist, and talking about it openly in public was a large factor in helping her cope.

One of the most helpful coping methods was surrounding herself with positive people. And for those going through what she did, she recommends “remembering that you’re not alone, and to just be sure you surround yourself with people that have no problem echoing the sentiment that it isn’t your fault.”

She believes being reminded that her assault was not her fault was really important for her recovery.

“The guilt gets under your skin,” she said. “It’s toxic.”

*Isabella Jones is a pseudonym given to the victim to protect her identity.

About Darling Hill

Darling is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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One comment

  1. The reason people are taught self-defense and to isn’t because the onus is on them to prevent rape, but because it can help save you.

    Preventing rape isn’t as easy as telling/teaching people not to rape to prevent rape. Rapists don’t care. Being able to defend oneself doesn’t make one any less or more of a victim if attacked- but it CAN help someone escape trauma.

    I’m glad to see reporting rates are seeming to rise, as small as the sample size is, but based on other data I fear the rate of unreported rate is far higher than 2 for every 1 reported.

    Thank you for discussing victim advocacy in this article, sharing modes of outreach, and helping to destigmatize reporting rape.

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