More people have reported sexual assaults this year after the Ashland Police Department launched a campaign in January to encourage victims to come forward.
From January through April, Ashland police received 16 reports of sexual assaults, up from 11 during those months a year ago, police statistics show.
"In this particular area, having a higher number of reports is a good thing. A higher percentage of people are telling us about sexual assaults," Police Chief Terry Holderness said.
Police have estimated in the past that only 15 to 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported.
Under APD's "You Have Options" campaign, victims don't have to decide right away whether they want to press charges.
They can go to Rogue Valley hospitals for free medical care, where trained personnel can collect evidence, emergency contraception is made available and victims can be referred to support and advocacy services.
The campaign includes a website with sexual assault reporting information. Posters have also been put up around town, especially in restrooms.
While society often blames victims of sexual assaults, 90 percent of assaults are by repeat offenders and the average offender has committed 5.8 assaults before being identified, according to APD.
For more information on APD's campaign to encourage reporting of sexual assaults, visit www.ReportingOptions.org or call 541-482-5211.
— Vickie Aldous
Read more in Friday's paper.