MEXICO — Sex crimes have more than doubled from last year and are nearly as high in neighboring Rumford. Additionally, the call volume to date in both towns is up by more than 320 apiece.
As of Wednesday morning, Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon said he had investigated 24 gross sexual assaults, compared to 11 last year. Of that 24, half were rapes (non-consensual sex), compared to six last year. Victims have mainly been women and minors.
“A lot of the victims I talked to this year said they were unable to fend off their assailant or were just incoherent,” he said.
Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter said that in the same period from January through December, Rumford has had 21 sex offenses compared to 10 last year. Of that 21, nine were reported rapes, but one turned out to be unsubstantiated, reducing the number to eight, compared to three rapes last year.
“We work these cases diligently to stop that kind of behavior,” Carter said. However, until November, he had only one detective — because of budget cuts — to work these cases.
Statewide, rising sex crimes make Mexico and Rumford the anomaly.
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday afternoon that sexual assault crimes were not up across the state.
“I do not have an explanation as to why these two communities have seen an increase, percentage-wise, that’s fairly significant,” McCausland said.
Hodsdon, Carter and Cara Courchesne, communications director for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assaults, couldn’t explain the significant uptick either. All three said gross sexual assault and sexual assaults are typically under-reported crimes across the nation.
Courchesne said 13,000 people in Maine would be raped or sexually assaulted this year. That number was calculated from the Maine Crime Victimization Survey by the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, she said.
“The actual number of rapes doesn’t change a whole lot in Maine,” she said. “Generally, it’s been that one in five Mainers will experience rape in their lifetime.”
But many don’t report it, which leads to perpetrators not getting caught.
“There’s a lot of stigma around the crime itself,” she said. “For every 100 rapes that happen, about 15 to 20 get reported to police.”
Marty McIntyre, executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, formerly known as the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, said that agency has opened a new office in Rumford. That means there’s greater visibility and an advocate for victims of sex crimes in the River Valley area.
There is also heightened awareness about reporting such crimes from ongoing education in Maine schools, McIntyre said.
Courchesne said that according to the latest information from the Maine Department of Public Safety, 359 rapes and attempted rapes were reported to Maine law enforcement in 2013. That was down from 368 in 2012 and 391 in 2011.
This year in Mexico and Rumford, the perpetrators weren’t convicted sex offenders, repeat offenders or serial rapists, or anyone using date-rape drugs such as ecstasy, rohypnols (roofies) or ketamine, the police chiefs said.
“These are new offenders,” Hodsdon said of his cases. “The perpetrators are teens, young adults and adults. They range in age from 14 to the 20s and 30s. The majority of the cases involve drugs and alcohol.”
He said alcohol, prescription drugs, and heroin and cocaine are the most prevalent in the River Valley area.
Alcohol is the No. 1 date-rape drug on college campuses and has been for some time.
“Research suggests that alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and/or the victim increases the likelihood of sexual assault, but it’s not a causal relationship,” Courchesne said. “If someone is intent on perpetrating sexual assault, they’ll do so with or without alcohol.”
She added, “It’s a bit of a slippery slope, because you can easily get into the whole ‘Well, if she hadn’t been drinking, then she wouldn’t have been raped,’ which just isn’t generally the case.”
Hodsdon said the majority of victims in his cases have been juvenile girls. Two of the last five cases have been adult females, he said. The victims of sex crimes in Mexico this year were ages 12 to 24. Two of the last five have required hospitalization for 14 hours to be treated for sexual assault, he said.
“Most of the victims know their offenders,” Hodsdon said.
He said he’s seen few male victims, although he’s seeing “a huge up-trend in male victims of domestic violence, more than we ever used to see.”
Rumford’s Carter said his department’s cases have not involved a serial rapist. “These are individual crimes and not all gross sexual assault. There are many types of sex offenses that these fall under. There has been a sharp increase and I’m not sure why.”
“I think some of the reason victims are reporting (these crimes) now is we have (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services) up here now who do the prevention and offer hot lines for help,” Hodsdon said.
Also, police are better trained to respond and adults who were minors when they were sexually assaulted are now reporting those crimes, Hodsdon said.
Carter attributed Rumford’s spike in sexual offenses to an increased number of referrals from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
“They’re not all sexual assaults,” he said. “There’s several different categories, like sexual abuse of a minor and unlawful sexual contact, but it’s definitely up. We’ve had more investigations this year.”
Hodsdon said that of 14 reported gross sexual assaults this year, two were forced, one was unfounded and one victim was incoherent and coerced. One case of the 14 was placed in what he called the “active dead file.” That means the district attorney’s office chose not to prosecute the case, because it didn’t have enough information.
“It’s still under investigation,” Hodsdon said. “Hopefully, someone will come forward with information.”
Six other crimes he placed under the gross sexual assault umbrella were sex offenses, “which are still an assault,” he said. Of these, some involved indecent exposure. Other cases turned out to have happened in another town, he said.
Additionally, Hodsdon said two reports involved sexual abuse of a minor and two others were unlawful sexual contact or touching, bringing the total so far to 24.
Of the 11 reported gross sexual assaults in 2013, Hodsdon said six were rapes, one of which has been closed with a conviction, one was unfounded, four are still active and awaiting adjudication or something else, such as crime lab results from evidence, further information or cooperation from victims. One sexual abuse of a minor involved an adult male and a boy.
“We had no repeat offenders, but we did have two different offenders that we charged with having sex with multiple victims,” Hodsdon said. “That was the two brothers (Izaak and Jacob Blood) who were having sex with the same girls and providing them with alcohol and drugs.”
Jacob Blood pleaded guilty to his charges, but Hodsdon’s case against Izaak Blood is still pending, the chief said.
“I’ve investigated so many gross sexual assaults that I can only recall the last few,” he said.
As of Wednesday, Hodsdon said he had seven active gross sexual assault cases that were either in court or awaiting results from the state crime lab. He keeps a stack of folders containing ongoing gross sexual assault investigations beside his computer to work on when he has the time.
“The main issue with sexual assaults is that it places a large burden on the department, because you have well over 40 hours in of investigation and that’s just before you even get anywhere,” he said. “Then you have to type the reports and get them to the district attorney’s office, and the investigations take specialized training. As of this point, I’m the only one with that training.”
Hodsdon said sex crimes against children require extensive time to investigate because police rely on specialists for physical and forensic exams.
“We can go full force for like a week, and then we’re at the mercy of clinics,” he said. “There’s only so much we can do with the size of the force we have, but sex cases have to take precedence over other cases.”