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Safe & Secure: Rapes on the Rise in Isla Vista - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Safe & Secure: Rapes on the Rise in Isla Vista

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Startling numbers to report out of Santa Barbara County, where forcible rapes are on the rise.

New statistics show the number of these violent crimes jumped from 40 in 2015 to 56 in 2016. Of most concern is Isla Vista, where there were 23 rapes compared to 13 in 2015 and a total of 46 sexual assaults in 2016.

KSBY News Anchor Carina Corral went to the South Coast college town to find out how the Sheriff's Office plans to address the troubling trend.

When asked whether these new numbers are surprising, UCSB Student Ana Gonzalez said, "I'm surprised. I've always felt safe here."

Student Emily Potter had a difference response when asked if these new numbers surprise her.

"Honestly, no. There's a few streets in IV that have somewhat of a reputation where things like that occur."

It's not acceptable on any street, says the Santa Barbara County Sheriff. So his office is taking action and educating people on campus about these violent attacks.

"When we looked at the sexual assaults reported in Isla Vista in 2016, the majority of them did occur on the weekend, " said Sheriff Spokesperson Kelly Hoover, adding they also occurred between midnight and six in the morning and at parties.

"While there's no one to blame here but the perpetrator, there really are things students can do to be more aware," said Hoover. She offered these risk-reduction tips:

  • Travel in pairs
  • Don't leave each other alone
  • Cover drinks
  • Speak up if something doesn't seem right

The sheriff's office plans to tackle this issue head-on with an awareness campaign such as an annual event held in Isla Vista's Anisq'Oyo' Park called "Take Back the Night," letting students know sexual assault is, in fact, happening in IV.

For one of the event's organizers, Leanna Lugo, it's personal. She's a sexual assault survivor.

"I personally don't like to go out in IV because its a hostile environment for what I've been through," she said.

While most of the rapes happened at parties when people were drinking, Lugo is tired of people using alcohol as an excuse.

"To me, it doesn't matter alcohol was involved. No means no."

Idalia Gomez with the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center -- also at the event -- said the only way to stop sexual assaults is to create an environment in which it is not tolerated.

"So if they hear that some individuals might have inappropriate behavior, stopping them and telling them its not OK," she said.

The sheriff's office does not know if the sudden increase is because there are more rapes taking place or if more victims are coming forward. Either way, the numbers are concerning and the Sheriff, along with the District Attorney and other organizations, plan to team up to address the issue to bring the number of rapes down and a sense of security back up.

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