Lee County experiences jump in sex crimes

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – More men and college students are reporting sex crimes in Lee County, which accounts in part for a 30 percent increase, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Sex crimes include rape, acts of fondling and sexual assault. In 2014, there were 265 sex crime cases reported but in 2015 there were 345 incidents in Lee County, according to reports.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office said the increase is due in part to a growing population. Deputies also said more people are reporting the crimes.

Jennifer Benton, CEO of Abuse Counseling and Treatment, said while more people are coming forward, she believes there are an increasing number of victims.

She said her agency has seen its case load double in the past year, with more men and college students seeking help. In 2014 she provided counseling to an average of five individuals monthly, but in 2015 she saw as many as 16 people every month, Benson said.

Benton said the nature of the crimes have been worse for victims.

“Some of the sexual assaults are more violent than they have been  — beating them and hurting them extremely bad,” she said.

Benton called the increase in sex crimes “upsetting” but offered kudos to local colleges that have stepped up efforts to prevent crimes and also help victims.

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