Bakersfield saw an increase of 18 rapes in 2018 from the year before.

According to the Bakersfield Police Department, there were 110 rapes reported in 2018. Ninety-two were reported in 2017.

Both years show a marked increase from 2015 and 2016, in which 71 and 65 rapes were reported, respectively. 

As of Thursday, 15 rapes were reported this year, said police Sgt. Nathan McCauley, the department's spokesman.

Most cases of rape involve someone the victim knows, whether a relative or friend, McCauley said. Stranger rapes are rare, and McCauley said he couldn't recall the last time there was an "abduction-style" stranger rape in Bakersfield.

There have, however, been incidents the past few years where prostitutes have been raped by prospective johns. They'll get into a vehicle and, instead of exchanging money for sex, the man will drive them to a location and assault them. 

Among tips for staying safe, police recommend parking in well-lit areas when out at night and going out in groups of two or more. Depending on what someone is comfortable using, pepper spray or tasers can be easily carried most places. 

If out at a bar or club, be aware of your surroundings and level of intoxication. Rohypnol, a powerful sedative sexual predators have been known to pour in drinks to render their victims helpless, hasn't been an issue locally in a while, but McCauley recommended drinks not be left unattended. 

"Protect your drink and be mindful of what goes into it," he said. 

If a sexual assault does occur, McCauley urged victims not to change or wash their clothes or shower. It may sound counterintuitive, but in order to gather the necessary evidence to secure a conviction authorities will need to take samples of DNA from both clothing and the victim's body. 

It's asked that the assault be reported as soon as possible. 

There are counselors and other services available to help victims get through this traumatic experience.

"They're not alone in this," McCauley said. " There are plenty of people who have been through their circumstances and can share with them. Coming forward will help prevent this from happening to someone else and get justice."

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