‘Scared to go to the ER’: Rape Crisis Center sees 95% decrease in sexual assault reports due to COVID-19

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The Rape Crisis Center in Myrtle Beach says they’ve seen a decrease in reports of sexual assaults to local emergency rooms.

Executive Director Tracy Bowie tells News13 people are scared to go to the ER due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bowie says they’ve seen a 95% drop in sexual assaults being reported to local emergency rooms in both Horry and Georgetown counties, and she says it’s due to the pandemic and the previous stay-at-home order.

“A lot of people have just been scared to go to the emergency room,” she said.

Harvard Medical School calls sexual violence during COVID-19 a second and silent pandemic.

“In the beginning month I guess, you know we probably didn’t have any,” said Bowie. “Then we had maybe one or two people that would actually show up to the hospital.”

Less people are reporting because they’re worried about contracting COVID-19 or are with an attacker they’ve been with since the stay-at-home order, according to Bowie.

The Horry County Police Department Criminal Investigation Division’s case numbers also indicate a slight decrease in overall sexual assault cases in February through May of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to Public Information Officer Mikayla Moskov. The numbers include cases ranging from criminal sexual conduct (1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree), to criminal sexual conduct with a minor, to sodomy and rape, et cetera.


Sexual Assault Cases Investigated by the HCPD — 2019

  • February 2019: 15
  • March 2019: 11
  • April 2019: 15
  • May 2019 (through May 25, 2019): 25

Sexual Assault Cases Investigated by the HCPD — 2020

  • February 2020: 11
  • March 2020: 14
  • April 2020: 3
  • May 2020 (through May 25, 2020): 9

Moskov says the statistics may not be directly comparable to those provided by the Rape Crisis Center, as they do not know what factors the Rape Crisis Center includes in their statistics.

She says the decrease may be, in part, attributed to more individuals being at home and/or with family due to COVID-19-related restrictions and closures.

Bowie says in the decade she’s worked in the sexual assault field, she’s never seen it where an outside force like the coronavirus pandemic has an effect such as this.

“We’ve got a board member who works on the front lines in one of the emergency rooms and especially when things first started with the COVID-19, people were not going to the emergency room at all,” she said.

More than 30% of calls to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) had callers saying the pandemic exacerbated the difficulty of what they’re facing.

Now, with reopening efforts, Bowie says they’re expecting an influx of people needing assistance to come soon.

“We’re hearing that from the emergency room folks that traffic is starting to pick up a little more there, but its been, it’s still been quieter than I’ve ever seen it in ten years,” she said.

Bowie says the ER is a safe place to go if you are a sexual assault victim and to not be afraid to call the Rape Crisis Center at 843-448-7273 if you feel you’re in an unsafe situation.

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