Sexual Assault

An interview room for sexual assault survivors
Julia Reihs / KUT

Three gray lounge chairs surround a small table. There is a weighted blanket in a basket by the window, another blanket draped across one of the chairs. Most of the furniture is from home decor retailer West Elm.

The backs of three Austin police officers
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

An independent review of how Austin police investigate sexual assault cases won't be completed until February 2022, the Austin Public Safety Commission said. 

UT Austin students hold signs in support of sexual assault survivors.
Salvador Castro for KUT

The City of Austin will pay a Washington, D.C.-based research firm up to $800,000 to evaluate how Austin police officers investigate sexual assault cases. Last year, a string of reports revealed that the Austin Police Department had misclassified rape cases, raising questions about the integrity of these investigations.

Updated 5:01 p.m.

More than 3 million women experienced rape as their first sexual encounter, according to a new study, which surveyed women ages 18 to 44 in the U.S. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that most respondents were adolescents when they were raped. It also found that these women were more likely to suffer worse long-term health outcomes than women who had sex voluntarily the first time.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin on Wednesday claims  Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and an employee in her office lied to the public about a sexual assault victim.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The University of Texas says it has developed the first-ever guide to help police departments and communities notify victims about results of their sexual assault kits.

A diagram used to mark injuries during a sexual assault exam
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas lawmakers added more than $75 million to the budget in the last legislative session for sexual assault-related initiatives. 

Stand with Survivors rally
Salvador Castro for KUT

Austin had the highest number of rapes reported in large Texas cities in 2017. The rate of reported rapes that year was also nearly 40% higher than U.S. cities of similar size

The Travis County District Attorney says law enforcement responded to more than 600 adult sexual assault allegations that year. Only one person was found guilty by a jury. 

And that case wasn't from Austin. 

Former Austin Police Sgt. Elizabeth Donegan
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part II in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a crime that can happen to anyone, but women are twice as likely to be victimized in Texas. In a 2015 study, UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault found 1 in 5 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. But for women, it's 2 in 5.

Marina Garrett, sexual assault survivor
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part I in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains a graphic description of sexual assault.

When I first met with Marina Garrett, she was preparing to graduate from UT Austin. Like most seniors, she said she was nervous but excited. It was an especially significant moment for Garrett because, for a long time, she didn’t think it would happen.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Julia Reihs / KUT

Part III in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

Warning: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Only 5 out of 1,000 rapists will go to prison in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The numbers aren’t much better when zoomed in locally.

A crowd during SXSW in 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Part IV in a four-part series on why sexual assault cases are so hard to prosecute in Austin.

At an Austin City Council meeting in January, a large number of people had signed up to give public testimony on the last item on the agenda. Most were women; each wore a yellow bandana – a sign of solidarity for sexual assault survivors.

Marina Garrett was one of them.

Margaret Moore, the Travis County District Attorney, at a Travis County press briefing in 2017.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore resigned from the state’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force on Friday. Her appointment was cut short after critics, including survivors suing over Moore’s record of handling sexual assaults, expressed concern

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore has been appointed to the Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force inside the governor's office, despite being sued over her office's alleged mishandling of rape cases

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Three named plaintiffs launched a class action lawsuit last year against the City of Austin, Travis County and several local officials, claiming they failed to adequately investigate and prosecute their sexual assault cases.

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

Updated 6:10 p.m., March 5 

Lawyers for a woman who says she was sexually assaulted in Austin are asking a court to force Travis County prosecutors to answer questions and provide evidence after learning of a prosecutor’s phone call that they say defames the woman.

Tom P / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News uncovered hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention, or SBC, church leaders and volunteers who faced sexual misconduct allegations in a recent investigation, “Abuse of Faith.” Reporters found that church leaders often knew about the abuse and did little, if anything, to stop it.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council last month approved an independent review of how the police department handles sexual assault cases. Mayor Steve Adler, who voted in favor of the review, says he has confidence in Police Chief Brian Manley and the work of the department. But, Adler says, he wants to get at the core of what he calls the "greatest challenges" facing the department in completing sexual assault investigations.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Police Department agrees with most of the results of a state audit that found police wrongly classified a number of rape cases in 2017, according to a letter Police Chief Brian Manley sent the Texas Department of Public Safety on Monday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Austin will conduct an independent review of sexual assault investigations handled by the Austin Police Department. The Austin City Council voted unanimously Thursday to undertake the audit, which was spurred by community concerns over how the department classifies and investigates cases.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

A new group that aims to improve the response to sexual assaults in Austin and Travis County was announced yesterday. Its formation comes after public concern over how investigations have been handled. But that concern isn't new: There has been a group in place for nearly three decades tackling these issues, and the work hasn't been easy. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and former state Sen. Wendy Davis announced the creation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Healing Work Group today in response to concerns about how sexual assaults are handled in Travis County.

The group will focus on collecting data about sexual assaults to better advocate for survivors.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The Austin Police Department has ordered a third-party audit of sexual assault investigations after state auditors found it misclassified certain rape cases.  

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced sweeping rules on how colleges handle cases of sexual assault and harassment that she says will fix a "failed" and "shameful" system that has been unfair to accused students.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Cody Wilson, founder of the 3D-printed gun firm Defense Distributed, has been accused of sexual assault of a minor last month, a second-degree felony. In a press conference today, the Austin Police Department said the self-styled "radical libertarian" and gun-rights activist was last seen in Taipei, Taiwan and that he missed a flight back to the United States.

Callie Hernandez for KUT

Three women have sued the City of Austin and Travis County, alleging their sexual assault cases were inadequately handled because of their gender. The class-action lawsuit claims that sexual assault survivors “have been denied equal access to justice and equal protection of the law.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

The Texas primaries are less than a month away, with many officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, up for reelection. Abbott announced on Tuesday what some are calling a big campaign push – it’s a “preventing, protecting, punishing” proposal aimed at rape kit testing backlogs, sexual misconduct in the State Capitol, and stronger penalties for human trafficking and prostitution.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of sexual assault at the former site of the National Training Center for USA Gymnastics. The property’s owners, Bela and Marta Karolyi, were recently implicated in a widespread sexual assault and abuse scandal that ended with the imprisonment of former USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

The forces arrayed against Alabama judge Roy Moore are mounting. A fifth woman has come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama’s Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race. Lawmakers in Texas may have to focus on problems closer to home, though, based on reports that are now coming to light.

Photo credit: Martyna Borkowski for Rubenstein/Flickr Creative Commons

From Texas Standard.

More allegations surfaced over the past week involving high-profile American men with a history of sexual harassment and molestation. From Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to comedian Louis C.K., these revelations have rocked the country’s political landscape, the entertainment industry, and NPR.

Many of these accusations date back decades, but they’re coming out now. Joanna Grossman, the Endowed Chair in Women and the Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says that doesn’t necessarily signal a new cultural shift.

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