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'Believe them:' Boise victim center offers help as cases of rape, incest rise in Idaho

According to Idaho State Police's 2021 crime report, crimes of rape and incest in the Gem State are at a five year high.

BOISE, Idaho — At Faces of Hope in Downtown Boise, staff and volunteers work diligently to care for members of our community that are facing some of their darkest times.

"We help victims that are dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse, sex trafficking and stalking," said Paige Dinger, the executive director for Faces of Hope. She added their services include helping people with legal, medical and emotional needs while also connecting them to resources around the community.

Last year, the center served about 2,400 men, women and children in the Treasure Valley. According to Dinger, Faces of Hope saw a 28% increase in people using its services over the last year.  Last month, they saw 18 new child abuse clients.

"I think what the community needs to know is it does happen- abuse does happen," Dinger said.

That rise reflects problems rippling through the rest of the Gem State.

New data from the Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification's “Crime in Idaho” report for 2021 shows the number of reported rape cases is up 11.83% compared to 2020. Cases of incest are also exponentially higher over the year with an increase of 833.33%.

Both crimes saw an all-time high in 2021 compared to the previous five years. In 2021, rape was the second most reported violent crime case in Idaho.

"Those are startling numbers that are huge figures," Dinger said.

However, Dinger knows many crimes of sexual assault go underreported.

"We know that a lot of people are not contacting police and they're having to deal with the shame and with this guilt," Dinger said. 

According to ISP's data, 47.25% of reported cases of rape in 2021 were juveniles. Twenty-four of the 28 people who reported crimes of incest were under the age of 18.

Again, Dinger said that is not the whole picture of what is going on in the state. She said many cases go unreported when children and teens are involved.

"When you're a child and you have to go and tell somebody that you're being abused, there's a lot of grooming that's involved," Dinger said. "That it makes it harder for that child to even feel like it's okay to come forward."

While under-reporting is a problem, it could potentially get worse.

"We've already had people come and have had some big emotions about what's happening in our country right now," Dinger said.

Idaho has a trigger law on the books that would ban abortions except when necessary to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest. However, those cases have to get reported to the police.

Dinger and the leadership at Faces of Hope are not sure yet what type of impact this may have on the number of incest and rape cases being reported in the future.

"It is really hard to come forward," Dinger said.

She said it's important to remember places, like Faces of Hope, can help. People facing some of the darkest times in their lives do not have to do it alone.

"What I always tell people is, 'If somebody reaches out to you, believe them, be an ambassador, come bring them to Faces,'" Dinger said. "Show them that you're a supportive person, show them that they can trust you and bring them to Faces for help."

Faces of Hope offers help with crisis counseling, forensic exams, medical care from partnerships from St. Luke's and Saint Alphonsus, law enforcement reporting, legal resources, protection orders, safety planning and more.

Dinger urges people to use their free services if anyone is experiencing any type of abuse.

Faces of Hope is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, the center's Forensic Exams and Law Enforcement is available 24/7 through emergency services. People in need of resources or more information can contact Faces of Hope at (208) 577-4400.

They urge people to call 911 in an emergency.

Faces of Hope also work with other victim service centers around the Treasure Valley, like Advocates Against Family Violence (AAFV) in Caldwell and WCA in Boise. If there is a need and someone can not get through to Faces of Hope, Dinger urges people to contact these resources. For the AAFV's hotline call (208) 459-4779 and WCA's hotline is (208) 343-7025.

She also said people can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance at 1-800-799-SAFE.

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