The number of rapes being reported in various parts of the county are up in comparison to the previous year, or so it may seem.

In Oxnard, reported rapes went up in the first quarter from three in 2009 to four in 2010, to the preliminary number of 15 so far this year.

In Moorpark, the number went up from one to eight for the years of 2009 and 2010, respectively. (Statistics were not available for 2011.)

In Ventura, the numbers went up from six to eight for the time period of January to April in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Elsewhere in the county, rapes reported decreased.

Crime stats in Moorpark, Ventura and Oxnard, on the surface, appear disheartening but, according to law enforcement, there really isn’t an explanation for the increase.

“I don’t have a good answer why the numbers are the way they are,” said Mike Adair, commander at the Oxnard Police Department. He did, however, explain there wasn’t a serial rapist on the loose — more than half of the rapes under investigation came from women who knew their attackers.

“Eight of the 15 [rapes reported], they knew the suspects,” he said. “[They] could be friends or acquaintances.”

In two of the reported incidents, the suspects were strangers, facts that require more resources and manpower to pursue. In such cases, detectives rely heavily on DNA.

In total, three women didn’t want prosecution. One was a false report and three of the rapes or attempted rapes happened in 2010 and weren’t reported until this year, which brings the total for the first quarter of 2011 down to 11.

Five suspects have been arrested and the rest are still under investigation. Only one woman reported that the rape included an additional violent act; in that case, the woman was hit in the face.

Though Adair said there wasn’t a common factor in the rapes, for more than half, intoxicating substances played a role.

“Eight involved alcohol or drugs,” he said, and the ages of the victims spanned the gamut, “[from] early 20s to 50s.

[There were] a couple of teens — 16 and 17.”

Of the rapes reported in Moorpark, Detective Sgt. Barbara Payton of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department broke down the numbers.

“Six were known suspects — ex-boyfriends, date rapes,” she said. Two requested no prosecution; “three were rejected by the DA’s office; one was a false report — not actually a crime. When you talk about rape, violent off-the-street raping, one was a felony filing, an attempted rape — a strange, violent situation.”

A problem for investigators, Payton said, is women who get themselves into situations while under the influence with men they know — even boyfriends — and don’t recall agreeing to have sex, but didn’t necessarily say no, either.

“[A woman] will go to a party, drink, sleep on a couch, on a bed; a boyfriend will get in bed with her and they will eventually have sex. The woman will go home, tell a friend or parent or whoever. But what happens, when we do an investigation, we never assume it’s not true, but we have to get the facts straight,” she continued, saying that the details of rape allegations become foggy, and investigators have a hard time putting the pieces together. But that happens sporadically.

Sgt. Rick Murray of the Ventura Police Department explained the increase in rapes reported.

“Of those eight [rape cases], two remain open; four of them, the victim no longer wants prosecution or they are uncooperative; and two were submitted to the district attorney’s office,” he said.

But all in law enforcement agree, alcohol plays a big role in rape. Whether women fall prey to someone spiking their drinks with a date rape drug, or both the suspect and victim drink too much, leaving the alleged victim with only a vague recollection of the incident, investigators warn about alcohol consumption.

“For females out at parties, directly drink a drink out of a cup, keep the container with them at all times,” Adair said. “The buddy system is good — always have one of your buddies choose to be sober. Bring bottled water.”   

A rape aggression defense class starts Sept. 8 and runs for six Thursdays, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wilson Senior Center in Oxnard. It is open for women 12 years of age or older, and is free to the public. For more information, call 982-7020.

michael@vcreporter.com