The New York Times reports that from January 1 to May 31, 540 rapes were reported in New York City. That number represents an eight percent increase from last year. In addition to the rise in reported rapes, misdemeanor sex crimes—which includes everything from unwanted touching to being groped on the subway—have increased 18%.

While some have attributed the uptick in rape and sexual assault to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to end intrusive and discriminatory police practices, advocates attribute the rising numbers to better reporting practices and changes in reporting protocol. They point to the grimmest of silver linings as evidence: in the vast majority of rapes reported in the city, the victim knows their attacker.

The Times reports:

According to national data from the Centers for Disease Control in 2012, the rate of stranger rape as a percentage of all rape is 14 percent; in New York City this year, the rate is half that. Of the 540 reported rapes, 39 were committed by someone the victim did not know, according to the police.

It is not hard to see why mining good news out of escalating sexual-assault figures would present a challenge for the department. But when you talk to those ministering to rape survivors, their tone is uniformly nonalarmist; they attribute the rising numbers to an uptick in the reporting of the crimes. And this, in turn, is regarded as a result of more concerted outreach, much of it in poor communities — where Emma Sulkowicz, the mattress-bearing Columbia University activist, has not attained the celebrity she has managed elsewhere — and much of it conducted by the Police Department, which has worked with hospital emergency rooms to encourage reporting.

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So New York isn’t seeing an actual increase in the number of rapes and sexual assaults committed in the city, rather what they’re seeing is a rise in the number of them reported. That rise is the direct result of concerted effort to make reporting easier for victims.

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