- Associated Press - Saturday, January 2, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Lincoln police say the number of rapes and attempted rapes reported in the city last year was the highest in at least the last 25 years.

Police received 188 reports through November, about a 23 percent increase over the 152 cases reported in all of 2014, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1RWLvJH ).

The number has climbed steadily since the mid-2000s, when police investigated an average of 110 sexual assault cases a year. The FBI says the number of reported rapes statewide has increased since 2000, even as the total number nationally has fallen.

Police and advocates say they don’t know what’s driving the increase. It’s possible that more victims are reporting rapes than in the past.

“It’s hard to know,” said Patsy Martin of Voices of Hope, which works with rape victims. “Are sexual assaults up, which is bad? Or is sexual assault reporting up, which is good?”

Lincoln police say only 16 percent of rapes are reported. Martin said her group always sees more victims than the police do.

Authorities say a greater awareness of services and how cases get reported may play a role. Victims can now report sexual assaults anonymously online on the Lincoln Police Department’s website or by going to a local hospital, said Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong. Victims who want to be anonymous are assigned a report number, and exam results go to prosecutors only if the victim signs a release.

The department pays for sex assault exams as it does in regular rape investigations, according to the department’s website.

“I don’t know of any law enforcement agency in the country that winds up doing what we do on that,” Peschong said.

Binge drinking among young adults may be a factor, said Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady. Casady said many rape cases involve victims who couldn’t give or revoke consent because they were too drunk.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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