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90% of Provo rapes not reported to police

BYU officer tells women to raise their awareness

PROVO — More than 90 percent of rapes in the city go unreported, according to the lead rape investigator for the BYU Police Department.

BYU officer Arnie Lemmon said only 43 rapes were reported last year in Provo, leaving the actual number of rapes estimated at more than 400 during 2002.

Lemmon spoke to a group of women on the BYU campus Thursday night as part of a monthlong lecture series titled "What's Lurking in Utah Valley?" to raise awareness

"The sexual predator is alive and well in this community as well as over the world," Lemmon told the women. "I don't want you to feel like this is Rapeville, USA, because it's not. . . . We try to do everything we can to combat it, but it happens."

Four sexual assaults were reported on the BYU campus last year, and Lemmon said there is a rape reported nationally every 5.8 minutes.

Lemmon said most Provo residents are religious and have a tendency to stigmatize discussion of sexual assault and sometimes to demonize the survivor.

He said he developed this opinion about 25 years ago when he moved to Provo and investigated the case of a first-semester freshman — the most common profile of a BYU rape victim — who was abducted while walking home from the campus library. The man took her inside his car and drove to Kiwanis park where he raped and sodomized her and threw her out of the car. It was nearly two years before the woman was emotionally stable enough to talk to Lemmon about the rape. "She said something that blew me away. She said, 'I should have died before I let him do that to me,' " Lemmon said. "I was troubled that she had to believe that."

Lemmon read from a letter written by a BYU rape victim who shared a similar belief.

"I'm a perversion to the good saints of my church," wrote the victim, who said she wished she were dead. Tragic thoughts like these are common among rape victims in Provo, Lemmon said.

Lemmon said rape survivors need to understand that God still loves them, that they are still "clean and pure," and that they have their whole lives ahead of them.

Otherwise, he said, "We're sending women the wrong message. We're saying 'You should be dead. You're a sinful woman because you survived. In a rape setting, there is no loss of virtue or chastity.' "

Lemmon said the Internet, especially through cyber-sex chat rooms, has created a new type of sexual predator "that is more aggressive, that is more perverted" and more anonymous because predators can more easily conceal their identities.

"In my mind, (the Internet) is the biggest cesspool ever created," Lemmon said. "I tell coeds all the time: You're stupid if you hang out in chat rooms."

Lemmon read from several case studies of BYU rape victims. He said they all fell victim to charismatic, seemingly decent men who desensitize their victims.

"Men are the problem," Lemmon said. "Yes, rape happens to men, but in the total scheme of things, it doesn't happen very often. . . . I have no feeling for offenders. I have no empathy."

Lemmon said women can protect themselves from date rapes by setting standards on who they date and demanding that they be met. He also said women should pay attention for warning signs, such as verbal abuse or intimidation.

"Domestic violence doesn't start after you say 'I do,' " Lemmon said. "Warning signs start kicking up even after the first date."

Officer Ryan Judd, also with the BYU Police Department, encouraged women to take part in rape awareness and defense classes offered throughout the country as a means to protect themselves from becoming victims.