Clients reporting to one Rapid City resource center that they've been victims of sexual assault rose 60 percent in the past year.

In 2012, 97 people reported that they had been victims of sexual assault, up from 61 in 2011, according to Working Against Violence, Inc., a local sexual assault resource center.

The numbers add to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that show sexual violence in Rapid City is an increasing problem.

Between 2006 and 2011, forcible rapes in Rapid City have risen by 77 percent. In 2011, 99 rapes were reported in Rapid City, compared to 108 reported in Sioux Falls, according to data by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since people reporting to WAVI do not necessarily contact law enforcement, the actual number of incidents could be larger than the FBI data.

With those numbers in mind, Rapid City area community members gathered Tuesday to proclaim April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The organizers, who spoke outside the Quincy Street headquarters of WAVI, focused on talking up local resource services to help victims and positive changes in how society perceives sexual violence. But Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo said the region must still make sure "every school, every workplace and every home is a safe place for a victim to make a report."

"That they know that they will be encouraged, they will be supported and they will find help in healing is the next step," Vargo said of victims.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month will include promoting education through informational tables in public places, a presentation on masculinity for psychology students at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and an April 27 performance of Vagina Monologues at Dahl Arts Center.

The region is trying to combat the problem in other ways, too.

Last September, WAVI, along with law enforcement agencies and other organizations, put together a Sexual Assault Response Task Force to better coordinate how to handle sexual violence.

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Mary Corbine, executive director of WAVI, told the Journal last month that sexual assaults are the most under-reported crime.

"Society puts a lot of blame on victims, especially with sexual assault," Corbine said. "It's very shameful, those are reasons why I think people don't report."

Corbine ticked off a list of reasons sexual assault victims have been historically told: "the clothes they wore, words that were said, looks that were given, you already have a reputation, you shouldn't have gone to that party, you shouldn't have drank that much."

"We have to educate society that it doesn't matter what someone wears," Corbine said. "If you can't consent, it's rape."

Reach reporter Joe O'Sullivan at 605-394-8414.

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