East Texas Crisis Center: Sexual Assault Affects Every Area Of A Victim's Life

The man who sexual assaulted a Tyler woman last week is still on the loose tonight. Police are looking into the possibility he's responsible for at least one of the three other unsolved sexual assaults that occurred here over the last year. Counselors at the East Texas Crisis Center say it's an act that affects every area of a victim's life, and coming forward to talk about it is not easy.

"It's horribly difficult," said Jane Hagar, Volunteer Coordinator, East Texas Crisis Center. "One of the first things we do as victims is think, 'oh man, if I just hadn't done this or that' and the self blame starts. Anybody can look back retrospectively and think 'well maybe I should have or shouldn't have done this,' but risky behavior doesn't equal I want to be sexually assaulted." Hagar has heard the stories of hundreds of sexual assault victims. She says the act is not just about sex.

"The ones that appear very random usually it's about power and control, and they are looking for a vulnerable victim," said Hagar. "Sometimes they will case a situation for several days." Hagar says the target is women, ages 17 to 25.

"That's understandable because they are getting out and dating and getting more independent," said Hagar. The crisis center says 1 in 4 woman have been sexually assaulted. Fifty percent of those sexual assaults involve acquaintances or friends and 14 percent involve a close friend or relative. The crisis center says 90 percent of sexual assaults involve threats of physical harm or actual force.

"The more attention you pay to your surroundings, the safer you are going to be," said Hagar. This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and next week is National Crime Victims Rights Week. On Monday, the crisis center will hold a People's Law Forum from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. It will at the TJC West Campus. David Dobbs, a former Smith County District Attorney will be speaking about victims rights. Then next Saturday, April 29th, there will be a Strength In Unity Walk through downtown Tyler from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Registration will be held at the corner of Ferguson and Broadway.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com