OGDEN -- When Julee Smith was training to be a police officer more than 30 years ago, the officers who trained her warned her about rape.
"They told me that if someone reported an assault to me, we put them on a polygraph right away," Smith said. "And they said, 'If you ever get attacked, you'd better just sit back and enjoy it.'And of course they were saying that women usually lie."
Now the director of Your Community Connection in Ogden, Smith knows that the biggest obstacle to stopping sexual assault is still public perception. And while a recent spate of sex scandals plaguing the military has caught the nation's attention, Smith and others working to end sexual assault see a more widespread problem.
Just ask Hill Air Force Base Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Janaee Stone. As a woman who served nine years in the U.S. Navy, Stone has no illusions about rape in the military -- and she also knows it's never going to stop.
"Sexual assault is one crime that will never go away. In 12 years, I've never been raped," Stone said. "But there's this perception about the military, and the truth is, sexual assault isn't happening any more in the military than in a college dorm."
The military has recently come under heavy scrutiny for its handling of sexual assaults in its ranks. Earlier this month, Congress blocked the promotion of a U.S. Air Force general for pardoning an officer convicted of sexual assault. Since then, other scandals have come to light, including one Air Force sexual-abuse prevention counselor being accused of misconduct and reports of military recruiters in three states being accused of sex crimes in the last year.
Stone said that while she recognizes assaults do occur in the military, the scope of the problem reaches far beyond those in uniform.
And Utah is not immune.
According to the Utah Department of Health, Utah's rape rate is higher than the national average -- 64 out of every 100,000 Utah women have been raped, compared to the national rate of 57 out of every 100,000 women. By those numbers, the department's website says, one-third of Utah women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and one in every eight will be raped.
But the very numbers that reflect the situation can be deceiving.
Why? One reason is that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the United States -- the state health department estimates roughly 88 percent of incidents go unreported in Utah alone.
Utah is also one of the few states that exercise strict mandatory reporting for sexual assault. According to a 2010 study from the National District Attorneys Association, many states only require medical or police personnel to report certain types of injuries, such as burns or stab wounds. Others, like Alabama, New Mexico and Washington state, have no laws that require reporting.
Utah's law has a proviso that a health care provider must report "any injury" inflicted with certain weapons "or by violation of any criminal statute of this state" -- including sexual assault.
Therefore, Stone and Smith recognize, if Utah is complying with the law and reporting more cases, that doesn't mean sexual assault is occurring more often than in other states.
So, in a state that may be reporting more than other states, how does anyone know how prevalent sexual assault is?
"We don't," Smith said. "There's no way to know for sure. I admire Utah, and I feel good about our laws, but do we really report everything that's going on? No."
But Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said there are some statistics that can be used to confidently cast a light on the risk factors. And they're disturbing.
According to the most recent Rape in Utah report released through the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, 78 percent of female rape victims were younger than 18 when assaulted. Of those, about 85 percent reported the offender as a family member.
"These are important things to look at, because they kind of change the dynamic. Overwhelmingly, victims know their attackers," Kindness said. "Adverse childhood experiences like verbal abuse, neglect, assault -- these contribute to vulnerability as an adult."
The demographic for people most often arrested for sexual assault according to the 2011 Crime in Utah report falls to males ages 10-17. The rate of forced sex among males younger than 18 in Utah was also higher than the national average, Kindness said.
"Witnessing sexual abuse is a contributing factor to becoming a perpetrator. If we've got these high rates in the general population, why would we expect it to be different for other populations, like the armed forces?" Kindness said. "It's inherent in that we're not handling this well as a society."
So, why are children becoming both victims and offenders so young in Utah?
"That's pretty easy," said Rod Layton, executive director of the Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center. "There are two things that drive it."
One, he said, is pornography.
"We're just a sexualized society," Layton said. "It creates the need to act on some of that."
The other driving factor, he said, is kids' sheer availability to hook up.
"You can text someone private, personal things you wouldn't ask face to face," Layton said. "It gets to be that direct a question: You want to come over and have sex? Yup. But I don't think they understand the consequences."
Moving forward, the biggest challenges to combat sexual assault will be changing public perception.
"Sexual assault is the only crime where we place all the blame on the victim," Stone said.
Smith said she knows the road ahead won't be easy.
"Utah is notorious for that denial. To this day, there are still places we go in this state where they tell us, 'We don't have that here,' " Smith said. "We've come a long way, but I think we've still got a ways to go."