Miles City crime: Sexual assaults, date rape are police targets

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series about crime in Miles City. Part 1 appeared Tuesday, May 9.)

Last year there were 25 sexual assault cases filed in Miles City, along with 19 stalking cases and 51 cases involving violations of orders of protection, part of what police say is an increasing trend of violence in relationships. 

Miles City Police Chief Doug Colombik said most of the cases have two things in common — the victims and the perpetrators usually know each other, and alcohol and/or other drugs are usually involved.

Caroline Fleming, director of the Custer Network Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault (CNADA), agreed with the chief’s assessment.

She said each year her office sees women who were given “date rape drugs.” But, she said, the most commonly used date rape drug is alcohol, adding alcohol is involved in the majority of cases.

Both Fleming and Colombik said they see rape cases several times a year where rape drugs are involved.

When date rape drugs are used (other than alcohol), Colombik said it’s usually one of three: Rohypnol, also known as a “roofie”; Ketamine, aka “Special K”; and Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, commonly known as “ghb.”

These three drugs are the most commonly used and they are all tasteless, odorless and colorless, Colombik said. 

If someone feels they may have been sexually assaulted, they need to report it without delay, especially if they suspect date rape drugs were used. 

Colombik said it’s very difficult to investigate accusations and prosecute cases for using date rape drugs because of how limited the time is to test for the drugs. 

The rape is a crime in and of itself, but since a woman’s memory may be hazy after receiving one of these drugs, proving the drug is there is helpful to the case.

“The majority of people who are raped are raped by people they know; people they trust,” Fleming said, citing the statistic that it’s now 70 percent of all attacks.

It’s usually not the stranger hiding in the bushes, but it’s a friend at school, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a boyfriend, a family member or a spouse, although spouses usually use fear and not drugs to rape, she said.

Fleming encourages people to know their limits, advises them to respect themselves, and warns them not to leave their drink unattended. 

When a woman goes out to a social event, she should be with friends and plan to leave with them.

There’s safety in numbers. If plans change, she should make sure someone knows who she is leaving with and when she expects to be home, Fleming said.

People should have their cell phones handy to call 911 or rapid dial a friend. 

People go out to have fun and relax, not to think about the risk of being assaulted, but being prepared makes all the difference.

Rape is usually a crime of opportunity, she said.

She noted rapists rape an average of six times each, so it’s helpful to others to report. She stressed that no victim is responsible for a rapist raping again.

One in four women will be the victim of a sexual attack and one in 60 men, she said.

In her talks to schools and other places she stresses “it’s not OK to disrespect another person. One of the most disrespectful crimes one could commit is rape.”

She said she feels society today doesn’t put the emphasis on respecting others like it once did.

Rape is not about what you wear, where you are, how you look or what you are doing, she said. “It’s a violent crime. Only criminals commit rape.” 

She also stresses how important it is for a person to report the attack immediately. If the person is not comfortable talking to law enforcement, she needs to go get medical help and have the medical professionals collect evidence and test for sexually transmitted diseases.

There is a Free Rape Exam Program where there is no cost to the victim and the evidence will be stored for up to a year, so the victim can decide whether to press charges. 

If someone doesn’t want to report a rape or other sexual assault, Fleming emphasizes he or she still needs to get help and talk to someone. 

The 24-hour hotline number of the Miles City CNADA office is 951-0475, the Forsyth number is 853-2991 and the national number is 800-799-7233.

In other sex-related crimes, child porn cases continue to rise in Miles City, Colombik said.

Also a lot of local juveniles are sending pictures of themselves online (sexting) to adults in other states, Colombik said. The police are receiving a lot of referrals from other states of adults having photos of local children. Recently the police department investigated three cases in two weeks, he said.