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Anonymous Victim Highlights Trend of Unreported Sexual Assaults

by on February 12, 2014 3:36 PM

State College police received a report of a sexual assault Tuesday; however, authorities' hands are tied when it comes to investigating.

State College Police Lt. Keith Robb says Penn State's health center reported that a patient treated at the center claimed to be a sexual assault victim. A doctor at the health center told police the victim was assaulted at an off-campus fraternity house near the downtown area on Feb. 9.

However, Robb says the health center did not give police the victim's name and the victim reportedly asked police not be involved. With no other information available, the case can't move forward, Robb says.

Essentially, this is a report of a sexual assault with no details and no victim, Robb says.

"For me, as an investigator, I'm frustrated because I want to help, but I'm not going to be able to," he says.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, roughly 60 percent of sexual assaults never get reported to police, making it one of the most underreported crimes in the United States.

"We honor their wishes," Robb says. "We encourage and offer support and advocacy and leave that door open for them to initiate a police investigation. We want to empower them. They've already been forced to do something they don't want to do. ... They do have the opportunity to say they don't want the police to get involved."

Experts say victims do not report sexual assaults out of shame, embarrassment or fear of being blamed for the incident as well as fear of having to face the suspect in court where personal information will be discussed publicly.

Robb says police will offer support to ensure the victim's needs are met through the process.

"We encourage all victims to call us directly and we'll do whatever we can to resolve this issue," Robb says. "My message to the victim is, 'we're here if you need us.'"

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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