Angela Rose spoke Tuesday from a deeply personal experience when she talked at the Louisiana State Police Training Academy about “shattering the silence of sexual violence.’’
Rose was a 17-year-old high school graduate when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from a suburban Chicago shopping mall parking lot on July 13, 1996, and sexually assaulted.
“When I went to report the crime, the responding detective didn’t believe me,’’ she said during a multidisciplinary training seminar for those involved in responding to sexual violence.
Rose said the detective asked if she was lying, if she was in an abusive relationship, and if her boyfriend hits her.
“I felt extremely re-traumatized and re-victimized,’’ she recalled.
Rose urged law enforcement to “take that empathetic and sympathetic ear’’ when talking to victims of sexual violence.
Rose also remembered hearing her mother tell a relative shortly after the attack that she had been in a bad car accident.
“We cannot be silent about this,’’ she stressed to her audience of law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, probation and parole agents, victim advocates, health professionals and others.
Rose also noted that some of her co-workers at the mall asked why she didn’t fight her attacker and why she didn’t do more to get away.
“I carried that blame and that guilt for years,’’ she acknowledged.
Today, Rose is founder and executive director of Washington, D.C.-based PAVE, which stands for Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment.
“I was catapulted into this work 15 years ago,’’ she said.
“There is no shame. There is no stigma,’’ Rose said of victims of sexual violence. “This was not your fault. No one deserves to be sexually violated.”
Rose said her attacker, who is now serving a life sentence, had served 12 years in prison for the 1980 rape and murder of a teenager. He was on parole at the time he attacked Rose.
He also had kidnapped and raped other women, she said.
“I really felt slapped in the face by the criminal justice system,’’ Rose said. “We (the man’s victims) felt helpless but we knew we needed to do something.’’
And so the idea for PAVE was born, she said. The nonprofit group uses social, educational and legislative tactics to shatter silence of sexual and domestic violence.
Rose, who said 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, called sexual violence a “public health crisis.’’
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of State Police, said Louisiana launched Operation Child Watch - a proactive crackdown on sexual predators who target children - in 2008 and has seen a 700 percent increase in arrests involving sexual exploitation of children.
Last year, he said, 15 children were rescued from sexually abusive homes.
Edmonson told seminar participants that kids are “our greatest asset’’ and said “we’re making a difference.’’
It is against the law in Louisiana to possess pornographic images of children.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III also spoke at the seminar and noted that fewer than 5 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported to police.
“The code of silence is a major tool of the molester,’’ he said.
In 90 percent of child molestation cases, the child knows or trusts the abuser, Moore added.
Police are called when a neighbor rapes a child, he said, but child protective services often are called when a family member rapes a child.
“What kind of justice is that?’’ Moore asked. “The criminal justice response to child abuse needs to be better.’’
State Police hosted the training seminar in partnership with PAVE.