Reported Sexual Offenses Up In Wisconsin Over The Last 5 Years

Data From State DOJ Show Highest Per-Capita Rates Of Sexual Offenses Were In Sauk, Lincoln, Eau Claire Counties

Sexual assault evidence kit
Pat Sullivan/AP Photo

The number of sex offenses reported in Wisconsin has increased since 2014, according to data from the state Department of Justice.

The DOJ says there were 5,113 sex crimes reported to law enforcement in 2018. That’s up slightly from the 4,777 offenses reported in 2014. The highest number of sex offenses in the five-year span came in 2017 with 5,327 reports.

The DOJ documented incidents of rape, non-consensual sodomy, sexual assaults with objects, fondling, incest and statutory rape.

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The number of reported rapes has increased steadily since 2014 according to the DOJ. In 2014 there were 1,180 reports made to police. In 2018 there were 1,582.

When population is taken into account Sauk, Lincoln and Eau Claire counties, respectively, had the highest rates of reported sexual offenses.

Hope House of South Central Wisconsin is a women’s shelter and victims advocacy organization in the Sauk County city of Baraboo. Elizabeth LaBroscian, grant coordinator for a Hope House program aimed at improving people’s interactions with the criminal justice system, said tourism in the region could be a contributing factor to Sauk County having the highest rate of reported sexual offenses in the state.

“Being that Lake Delton is in our service area and Sauk County and hotels that are located in Lake Delton and tourism, I think that that might create an opportunity for more reports to come forward from there,” she said.

But LaBroscian said the high rate is also likely due to people in the community and in schools feeling more comfortable reporting being victimized.

“Our county has really great school resource officers that children feel really comfortable disclosing to and reporting to,” LaBroscian said. “I do believe that that plays a pretty great role in it in that law enforcement is not perceived as aggressive or they’re not intimidating to those kids.”

She pointed to the national #MeToo movement as showing victims that it’s OK to talk about being survivors of sexual assault.

Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King also said that while the third highest rate of sexual offenses per-population were reported in Eau Claire County last year, it’s likely because people are becoming more comfortable going to police. He noted Eau Claire County has resources like a child advocacy center with a forensic child interviewer on staff. King said the county also has full-time sensitive crime detectives and a computer forensics lab staffed with four officers.

“It really puts us in an excellent position to investigate these types of cases and get good results,” said King. “Other jurisdictions that do not have those capabilities or do not have those resources are going to be lagging in their ability to successfully investigate and prosecute those cases.”

According to a 2010-2012 state survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 35 percent of women reported experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime. That works out to an estimated 787,000 women. Around 25 percent of women surveyed reported sexual violence in the last year.

A request for comment on the state sexual offense data was not returned by the DOJ.