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Sex Sells In Las Vegas, But Does It Also Invite Sexual Assault?

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Samantha Marx/Flickr

A large stripper statue marked the entrance to the Stripper Bar at the Miracle Mile shopping center at Planet Hollywood. 

Vice President Joe Biden and musician Lady Gaga made a stop at UNLV today to promote a new White House initiative to prevent sexual assaults.

Biden has long been an advocate of women’s rights, and this stop in Nevada stop is part of a multicity tour to promote the “It’s on Us,” campaign.

Aside from the publicity of a vice president and superstar visit, what does research actually show about sexual assault in the valley?

This year, Las Vegas Metro Police has reported that investigations involving sexual assault in the Las Vegas area have increased about 20 percent.

"Unfortunately, we excel at sexual assault like we do a lot of other forms of victimization here in Las Vegas," said Alexis Kennedy, an associate professor of criminal justice at UNLV. 

Kennedy has studied sexual victimization in Las Vegas. Last year, she received a grant from the Department of Justice to study human trafficking and resiliency in young survivors.

She conducts research for several nonprofit agencies in Las Vegas, and is familiar with specific issues the valley faces.

"What we sell is sex, what we tell everyone is that it's there, it's ready for the taking and it's easy to find," Kennedy said. "We're a more aggressive, overtly sexual town, so that is bleeding into our schools, not just our college campuses but our high schools and below." 

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Biden and Lady Gaga's tour was also spurred by the 2015 release of the documentary "The Hunting Ground," which portrays the fact that many young women are prey, are frequently assaulted and frequently ignored by their universities.

The documentary used national statistics that show one in five women will be assaulted by the time they leave college. According to Kennedy, however, it's not just restricted to college campuses, especially in a city like Las Vegas. 

"It's very difficult to understand the rates of sexual assault because it's one of the most underreported crimes out there," Kennedy said. "What's different about UNLV is that our students were assaulted when they were in high school." 

For now, work is being done to improve the response when a student admits they have been sexually assaulted, but there is still a long way to go. 

For more information about resources to assist victims of sexual assault, visit the Rape Crisis Center's website, or call the 24-hour hotline at 702-366-1640. Jean Nidetch Women's Center at UNLV. 

 

Guests

Alexis Kennedy, associate professor, criminal justice, UNLV 

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