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by Maureen Ledden Rossi

In just the first three months of this year, 258 people have already joined their ranks, according to a spokesperson for City Police Dept. headquarters. Most of last year’s victims where women, but experts noted a percentage were men.
Patrol Borough Queens North has reported 132 cases of rape for the first quarter of this year and Patrol Borough Queens South 126 cases. Spokespersons for both commands were not able to comment at presstime on what has caused the increase or what was being done to address it.
At this current rate, the number of reported rapes in Queens would reach the 1,000 mark by the end of the calendar year.
Esther Miller of the Mount Sinai Rape Crisis Intervention Program (RCIP) at Elmhurst General Hospital had no answers for this year’s figures, but said "It may be that rape victims are coming forward now because of better education and an increase in services."
Queens Assistant District Attorney Ken Applebaum, along with 15 other A.D.A.s, handle and prosecute all the sex crimes in the borough. "We are here to prosecute the criminals and to help the victims," he said, "We have an A.D.A. on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of year to go the precinct or hospital to be with the victim. We offer free rape counseling to all victims. These services fall under the auspices of the Victim Services Bureau."
According to Mary DeBourbon, spokesperson for the Queens D.A.’s Office, rape charges are categorized into three degrees with prison sentence maximums reaching to 25 years for First Degree Rape. First Degree Rape is sexual intercourse by forced compulsion with a weapon or by assault or rape of an individual under age 11.
As for the time that convicted criminals actually spend in jail, DeBourbon said "the court has always had to set a minimum sentence. The most common charge brought against a rapist, however, is rape in the First Degree."
Applebaum added with pride that the Office "just prosecuted a serial rapist who got 158 years to life."
For any victim of rape, "it is important to have a medical examination as soon as possible," according to Miller.
Miller said that "as part of our Emergency Room Advocacy Program, we have 75 trained volunteer advocates on call around the clock seven days a week to provide immediate crisis intervention. These volunteers literally rush to the bedside of the rape survivor."
The Program’s advocates are community members dedicated to reaching out to survivors of rape and their families. RCIP advocates offer emotional support and information about a survivor’s options.
Although their main headquarters is at Elmhurst Hospital, RCIP operates out of four different E.R.s in Queens. They often send two advocates out on a call – one to be with the survivor, one to be with the family of the survivor.
Besides the E.R. Program, RCIP offers free counseling, referrals and comprehensive support. A Legal Advocacy Program is available to assist survivors in their dealings with police, the District Attorney’s office, and filing compensation claims with the State Crime Victims Board. Two full-time counselors work on-site at the D.A.’s Office to assist on the criminal end of the crime.
Miller said "unfortunately, rape victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being re-victimized by hospital staff or the court system. They often fear deportation or cultural shame. If a young woman has lied to her parents about her whereabouts for the evening or maybe she was drinking – she is simply too afraid to report the attack. One of the single greatest tragedies of rape is the fact that the survivors often feel they are at fault.
"Surprising to so many, the vast majority of rapes are not stranger rapes. Most survivors know and trust their rapist. Stranger rapes are exactly what they state – rape by a person unknown to the survivor. ‘Date rapes,’ however are what we refer to as acquaintance rapes. Much press has been given lately to Rohypnol, the so called ‘date rape pill.’ The long and short of it is that there are about a dozen drugs used in date rape – known as Roofies. Since the 1900s narcotics have been used to drug rape victims," Miller said. Yesterday’s Mickey is today’s Roofie.
Rohypnol looks like aspirin, has no taste, no odor and, dissolved in drinks, causes amnesia-like symptoms. It is 10 times the strength of valium.
Miller added, "Whether the rape is a random stranger rape, a date rape or rape by an individual known to the survivor, the rape is never caused by or the fault of the survivor. Rape is a serious violent crime – counseling is important.
"You can not bury a rape," she said, "it simply does not stay buried."
An integral part of RCIP’s comprehensive four fold program is the Community Outreach Program. Trained individuals, counselors, advocates and survivors go out in Queens to senior centers, high schools, church groups and community groups. These individuals share their experience and talk about prevention.
For more information on the Mount Sinai Rape Crisis Intervention Program call
(718) 334-1418.
—Howard Girsky contributed to this story.
 

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