Harrisburg mayor unveils sexual assault task force

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Heinous sexual crimes committed in Harrisburg this week won't be tolerated, according to city leaders. Mayor Linda Thompson announced Friday she has formed a sexual assault task force to tackle the issue.

For the first time in a long time, the atrium of the City Government Center was packed with people. Sexual abuse victim advocates, city leaders, officials, and media members listened to Thompson lay out her plan.

Thompson, the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, Harrisburg YWCA, HACC, the Dauphin County district attorney's office and the county's victim-witness assistance program formed the mayor's task force.

“This group you see here, I can say we travel in packs,” Thompson said. “Particularly, we stand together when it comes to this type of insidious behavior.”

Several times Thompson said “two is enough,” referring to sexual assaults incidents in Harrisburg this week. However, police told abc27 News on Thursday that there were three sexual assaults reported within the past week.

The abduction and sexual assault of an 18-year-old HACC student garnered the most attention. A 14-year-old girl reported that she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted Tuesday near Zarker and 18th Street, according to police, and another woman said two men in a van grabbed her and sexually assaulted her near Reservoir Park over the weekend.

Jennifer Storm with Dauphin County's Victim-Witness Assistance Program spoke at the news conference and noted that education is important, but we as a society must put more into preventing “rapists not to rape.”

Storm cited statistics that show 1-in-4 women and 1-in-6 men are sexually abused by the age of 18. Most importantly, Storm said, we should trust our instincts.

“If you're in a situation and you get that feeling in your stomach, please trust it and retreat,” she said.

Tina Nixon of the Greater Harrisburg YWCA urged people who witness such crimes not to be silent.

“Standing by is no longer acceptable,” Nixon said. “If you see something going on in the community, you must act.”

Storm and Nixon vowed to work with city leaders and to help improve how the city relays sensitive yet important information to the public.

“We will be able to disseminate that information in a much more digestive manner where we are reaching the masses,” Storm said.

Many credited police for arresting the suspect in the HACC abduction, Clarence Shaffer, within 48 hours. While police continue to investigate the other crimes, Police Chief Pierre Ritter said his department would make this task force stronger.

“[Police will] stand fast and make sure this initiative moves forward and we bring these individuals to justice,” he said.

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