Warning issued after surge in sexual assaults in Orange County

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As spring break season ramps into full swing across Central Florida, the Victim Service Center issued a warning after 16 sexual assaults were reported in the past 10 days.

“Last year at the same time, we saw six casts over the same window,” Victim Service Center executive director Lui Damiani said. “On average we see four cases a week so to see 16 is unprecedented for us.”

Most of the recent cases involved high school- or college-aged victims and all involved drugs or alcohol, Damiani said.

The other common thread was that in most of the cases, the victims met their attackers in bars, some in downtown Orlando, and the assaults happened later in a residence.

“Just because you had a couple drinks doesn’t give someone the right to sexually assault you,” Damiani said.

The Orlando Police Department, University of Central Florida and the Victim Service Center recently teamed up with a new training program called Operation BAR-TAB.

Working with area bars, the organizations trained employees on how to recognize the signs that someone is vulnerable to a sexual assault and how to intervene.

The most important thing, though, is to not put yourself in a vulnerable position in the first place and to look out for the people around you, Damiani said.

“The perpetrators prey on the weak, prey on the vulnerable,” he said. “Don’t put yourself in that position for one, but also look out for your friends.

“Look out for who is putting what in someone’s drink. Pay attention and be aware.”

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