For weeks now we’ve been hearing about the city’s failure to maintain staffing and round the clock operations of the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center (MSARC). Wednesday, the Shelby County Commission moved a resolution out of committee that would allow the County Mayor to present a proposal to operate MSARC. The resolution was added on to the committee meeting Wednesday, and as of yet, has not been put on the online system. Hopefully the text will be available online in the coming days.
While the possibility of the County assuming responsibility for MSARC has some promise, the reality for the victims of rape and other sexual assaults in the area is that they will not only have to suffer the consequences of a horrific crime committed against them, but they will also have to navigate a system that is broken.
According to the 2008 preliminary FBI crime report Memphis had 210 reported rapes in 2007, and 201 in 2008. RAINN has some startling statistics about the reality of this crime. Only 60% of rapes are actually reported. If this statistic holds true here, the number of rapes in Memphis is somewhere near one a day.
Considering that just 60% of rapes are actually reported, can you imagine how much the number of reported rapes could decline when victims, already suffering from severe emotional and physical trauma of the assault, are faced with the possibility of dealing with an agency that has been allowed to fall into disrepair? What are the long-term physical and emotional implications for the victims of this crime? What about the public safety element? If rapes aren’t reported the people who commit this crime cannot be held to account. This situation is devastating for a community that has, unfortunately, become accustomed to such failures from the City.
In most instances, my first reaction to news of this nature would be to look to the responsible authority and demand accountability, but this is not about politics or politicians, it’s about taking care of the victims. If the City can’t or won’t fix the problem, then they need to cede control to a body that can and will. In the meantime, victims of sexual assault are left with a system that once was a model for care, but has become a victim of neglect.
For more information also see this article from Sunday’s Commercial Appeal.