State officials were asked to provide incentives to encourage participation in targeted training programs to deal with or prevent sexually violent crimes in Oklahoma, members of a state task force were told Thursday.
The rate of rapes reported in Oklahoma, at 44.2 per 100,000 population, is comparable with other states in the region but 37 percent higher than the national rate of 32.2 per 100,000 population, reported K.C. Moon, director of the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center. Though in past years Oklahoma's rate of reported rapes charted very close to the national average, in 1990 Oklahoma's rate of per-capita rapes shot up and ever since has consistently held at about 20 percent to 30 percent higher than the national average. No one seems to understand what caused the change, said Moon.
Furthermore, while the number of reported rapes has climbed, the number of rape arrests has not increased as dramatically. Last year, there were about 1,500 rapes reported in Oklahoma, and there were about 300 arrests, Moon reported. About 100 of those arrested were sent to jail.
There is a critical shortage of nurses in Oklahoma who are trained to properly examine rape victims, collecting and preserving the physical evidence needed to prosecute the crime, said Jennifer McLaughlin, a sexual violence specialist with the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Many nurses have never even seen a sexual assault kit before they are asked to use one, said McLaughlin.
Though the nurses make every effort to conduct the examination properly, McLaughlin said lack of training for the task may not only add to the discomfort of the victim, but may result in mishandling of the evidence used in subsequent legal proceedings. …