Accounts of rapes in the Louisiana Superdome and other evacuee sites are trickling in to counselors and the clergy more than three weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans and just as another major hurricane is set to strike the Texas coast, reports Women’s eNews. Police in major evacuation sites like the Houston Astrodome are accepting reports as well. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt instructed his personnel to take reports and hold them for safekeeping until other police jurisdiction are prepared to deal with them.
Reports by people who said they witnessed rapes are starting to filter in to rape counselors, said Judy Benitez of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault. The foundation is beginning to compile a database of reports without naming victims but including enough details about incidents in an attempt to rule out duplicates and get a better count. Under normal circumstances, Benitez said, the odds of rapes being reported to police were between 10 percent and 25 percent. Amid the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, Benitez expects an even lower reporting rate. Physical injuries from rape can be detected up to a week later, and testing for HIV and AIDS can commence as early as six weeks after a rape. Benitez says scars to the psyche can take even longer to manifest, which is why the sexual abuse related to Hurricane Katrina shouldn’t be discounted.