sexual assault

Casper Police Department’s Facebook

UPDATE: Shortly after this story originally aired, Interim City Manager Liz Becher announced that Police Chief Jim Wetzel will no longer serve in that role. According to the press release, “the City of Casper has decided to go in a new direction in the leadership of the Casper Police department.”

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year organizations across the country are focusing on the theme of “Engaging New Voices.” This is work the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault does year round. The coalition links organizations in every Wyoming county.

For example, the Community Safety Network, has for the last 35 years offered services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. They operate a confidential helpline and a shelter, and they work with survivors to create safety plans.

Wikimedia Commons

A Take Back the Night candlelight vigil honoring the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence will take place 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Prexy’s Pasture on the University of Wyoming campus. Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard sat down with Sydney Stein – a senior in the Visual Culture of Gendered Activism class that organized the event – to talk about why they put this together.

Maggie Mullen

The Casper Police Department hosted a community panel on sexual assault Thursday night, following the complaints of over 30 women that claim law enforcement mishandled their sexual assault cases.

The panel included representatives from sexual assault related services, including the Self Help Center, the Casper Police Department's Victim Services, the Child Advocacy Project, Wyoming Medical Center, as well as District Attorney Mike Blonigen and Chief of Police Jim Wetzel who discussed how they try to help victims.

Maggie Mullen

In the last year, over 30 women have approached the Casper City Council to express their frustration with how the Casper Police Department dealt with their sexual assault cases. The women allege that their cases were either mishandled or neglected by law enforcement.

It’s a quiet afternoon in Casper, shortly before Aimee Kidd will need to leave her house to go pick her children up from school. On her lap, is her 5-month old daughter, Noèmie.

Casper Police Department Facebook page

The City of Casper has set up a community panel discussion regarding how police handle sexual assault complaints.

More than 30 women have accused the Casper Police Department of mishandling or neglecting reports of sexual assault.

Casper Police Chief Jim Wetzel announced the panel discussion at Tuesday’s city council meeting and said the hour-long panel is meant to inform and educate the public on the legal, investigative, prosecutorial, and victim services issues of sexual assault.

University of Wyoming

On Wednesday, the University of Wyoming launched a new sexual assault prevention program.

President Laurie Nichols sent a letter out to all UW community members citing concern with the prevalence of sexual assault in higher education.

According to her research about one in five women and 6 percent of men are victims of sexual assault while in college. In response she launched a working group to pull together diverse strategies into a comprehensive response, which she said is unique.

Laramie County Community College is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights for allegedly discriminating on the basis of sex in its response to a complaint of sexual violence. Representatives from the Office for Civil Rights were scheduled to appear on campus September 13 and 14.

MDV via Flickr Creative Commons

The University of Wyoming Police Department reported 14 campus sexual assaults in 2015. That’s up from nine sexual assaults the year before.

Police Chief Mike Samp says this year’s number is just shy of a record 15 sexual assaults at the University in 2013.

“It’s consistent with some of our higher years that we’ve ever had reported,” says Samp. “We think the vast majority of those are possibly due to increased reporting options—making sure that students are aware it’s okay to come forward. We hope that we’re not seeing an increase in the actual number of sexual assaults.”

NAWHERC

April is sexual assault awareness month, and a Native advocacy group is handing out free copies of a new booklet on reservations around the country called “What To Do When You’re Raped: An ABC Handbook for Native Girls.”           

NAWHERC

  

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a good time to talk with the editor of a new book being handed out for free to Native women around the country called What To Do When You’re Raped: An ABC Handbook For Native Girls

Melodie Edwards

For victims of violent crime on the Wind River Indian Reservation, finding help and safety after an attack can be hard. A lack of funding means there are very few services for crime victims there. Recently, the only safe house for victims of sexual assault on Wind River closed down when its funding went dry, forcing victims to risk traveling to nearby towns to shelters off the reservation. But a new bill recently introduced in Congress would make it easier for tribes to get money to run their own safe house.  

U.S. Senator John Barrasso and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs have introduced a bill to help Native American tribes get better access to federal funds meant to help crime victims. In the last five years, tribes have received less than one percent of the federal victims’ funding available, even as crimes like homicide and sexual assault continue to rise on reservations.

Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr Creative Commons

Someone was sexually assaulted on the University of Wyoming campus on the very first day of classes this year. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Between 2011 and 2013, 27 sexual assaults were reported to campus authorities.

UW Police Chief Mike Samp says the problem is much worse than we know.

“According to FBI statistics, only about 1 in 10 victims ever report it to law enforcement, so although that number may seem high, we could actually have much higher number of victims out there,” Samp says.

Melodie Edwards

By some estimates, sexual assault on U.S. Indian reservations is the worst in the world with one in three Native women assaulted during their lifetime. Unbelievably, it’s higher even than war-torn Serbia or the Republic of Congo. And the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming is no exception.

Credit National Sexual Violence Resource Center

April is sexual assault awareness month, and here in Wyoming a new law now offers stricter protections for victims. Becca Fisher is the Executive Director of Laramie’s SAFE project – a crisis center for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She talked with Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard about the progress and challenges still facing sexual assault awareness in the state.

Wyoming victims of sexual assault will now be able to get a protection order without the necessity of proving their case in court. Governor Matt Mead signed a bill into law that provides victims a protection order of six months that can be renewed up to a year. 

Green River Senator John Hastert says it allows a victim to get protection from their assailant if they choose not to pursue criminal charges. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would provide protection orders for victims of sexual assault. Wyoming currently has no such provision.

The protection order would keep the person accused of the sexual assault from having any contact with the victim. Supporters of the bill wanted the protection order to last for a year, but Worland Representative Michael Greear successfully amended the bill which reduced the protection order to three months. He argued that it unfairly impacted someone who’s not yet been found guilty. 

Caroline Ballard

This past Sunday the White House released an ad campaign to address sexual assault on college campuses. It uses celebrities to promote speaking up if you suspect a sexual assault is in the works. But even with renewed awareness efforts, Sexual Assault remains the most underreported crime in the United States. Wyoming is no exception.

The University of Wyoming will kick off a new school year on Monday. It’s an exciting time for incoming freshmen, but the college years bring new freedoms as well as new risks.

UW’s STOP Violence program offers crisis intervention and support for anyone on campus who’s been affected by sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, and works to educate students about the issues.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Becky Martinez spoke with UW’s new STOP Violence Coordinator Megan Selheim about what new students should bear in mind for the coming school year.

Several groups will lead a rally in Laramie this week to combat rape culture. The event called Take Back the Night will incorporate music, dance and poetry to raise awareness about sexual assault and support survivors.

A judge has set bail at $2 million cash for a Montana man suspected of abducting and assaulting an 11-year-old Wyoming girl.
 
Thirty-nine-year-old Jesse Paul Speer made his initial court appearance today/Friday before Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters in Cody. His preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 26.
 
Prosecutors allege Speer forced a Cody girl into his SUV at gunpoint on Oct. 8, then assaulted and abandoned her outside of town. Hunters eventually found the girl.
 
He was arrested Saturday in Montana.
 

April is sexual assault awareness month, and Becca Fisher from SAFE Project, a group that provides services to victims, joins us to talk about the problem. She says nearly half of Wyoming women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. The incidents can range from unwanted touching to all-out rape, and Fisher says common scenarios are a little different than you might expect.

April is sexual assault awareness month and Becca Fisher of the Albany County SAFE Project, which assists victims, says many people have misperceptions about rape.

“A lot of us are taught to believe that it’s going to be a stranger jumping out from the bushes, or someone on a dark street when we’re alone walking at night. And that’s not typically how it happens.”

Fisher says in about 90 percent of sexual assault cases, the victim and the perpetrator know each other, sometimes very well.

A former resident of a youth home in Laramie has been awarded $300,000 in his civil lawsuit stemming from a sex assault case involving the resident and a female counselor.

An Albany County jury sided with the former resident of the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie. The lawsuit arose from a 2009 criminal case in which former counselor Katie Joseph was arrested for having a sexual
relationship with the resident. She was 31; he was 17.