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Study: Rape only violent crime in Utah with higher rates than national average

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Aug 8, 2022

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

In this photo taken Feb. 8, 2017, sexual assault evidence collection kits are shown during committee meeting at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting database indicates that rape is the only violent crime in Utah with higher rates than the national average.

The national rate is 42.6 per 100,000 people and the Utah rate is 55.5 per 100,000 people.

Those rates and other information are part of a research study recently concluded by the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah State University.

“Sexual assault is a significant social, criminal justice and health care issue in Utah,” according to Susan Madsen, director of the UWLP. “The high number of rapes reported in the data is especially concerning as only 11.8% of individuals who have experienced rape or sexual assault in Utah reported the crime to law enforcement.”

In 2007, the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice conducted an anonymous survey and discerned that 1 in 3 Utah women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes, and 1 in 6 Utah women experienced rape.

According to the study conducted by Madsen and her team — Dr. Julie L. Valentine, assistant professor of nursing at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Leslie W. Miles, associate teaching professor of nursing at BYU — Utah is ranked ninth out of the 50 U.S. states for the number of rapes per capita.

Rape results in significant individual and societal costs, according to Madsen, and individuals traumatized by rape frequently suffer negative short- and long-term physical, psychological and emotional effects.

“The financial burden of rape is estimated to cost $1,700 per Utah resident per year,” to the research team reported.

Utah researchers have been collecting data on adolescent/adult sexual assault cases from sexual assault medical forensic examination forms from eight Utah counties (Salt Lake, Utah, Weber, Morgan, Davis, Box Elder, Washington and Iron) since 2010 through a research collaboration with four forensic nursing teams and the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Bureau of Forensic Services.

The study indicates that young women are more vulnerable to sexual assault, although women of all ages were represented in the study population, with 4.7% of the victims being men and 0.4% who are transgender.

The study also found that Black and Native American people are more vulnerable to sexual assault.

Perhaps the most vulnerable who are attacked are the least able to fight back. According to Madsen’s team, 47.2% of Utah victims reported having a mental illness, ranging from mild to severe, compared to a 20% national rate of mental illness.

“Sexual assailants may prey on those who have mental illness as easier targets for abuse,” team findings said. “Victims with physical or mental impairments (e.g., developmental delays and cognitive/sensory/mobility impairments) are especially vulnerable for sexual assault and comprise 9.6% of the study population.”

Most sexual assaults reportedly occur in houses or apartments (62.6%), followed by other locations such as motels, bars, restaurants and businesses, cars/automobiles and the outdoors, according to the research team.

An “unknown location” was also reported by some victims who reported full loss of consciousness during their assaults.

About 16.2% of victims reported that they suspected they were drugged prior to the sexual assault, which is referred to as “suspected drug-facilitated sexual assaults.”

The study also indicates that victims who consumed alcohol or drugs (56.8% of cases) may have experienced increased situational vulnerabilities due to reduced awareness or impaired judgment from varying levels of intoxication.

Sleeping individuals (12.6%) were also determined to be vulnerable to sexual assault. The relationship between sleeping victims and assailants ranged from strangers to acquaintances to current and ex-partners, according to the study.

Approximately 76.6% of sexual assault victims reportedly knew their assailant, with the most common relationship categorized as an “acquaintance,” such as a friend or date.

“More than eighteen percent of victims (18.5%) reported being raped by a ‘stranger,'” defined by the researchers as “someone whom the victim did not know their name and had less than approximately two hours of interaction.”

The percentage of rapes by a current spouse/partner (6.9%) was slightly above rapes by ex-partners (5.7%), predominantly ex-boyfriends. The relationship of “other” was defined as someone in a position of power or authority over the victim, such as a boss, manager, teacher or family member, according to the study data.

In 4.8% of the cases, the victim did not know who the assailant was due to a complete loss of consciousness, which was often associated with suspected drug-facilitated sexual assaults.

While the information in the study is just a small view of research findings, the information gives a bird’s eye view of areas of concern for Utah women.

“Improvements in sexual assault kit submissions has been substantial, yet prosecution of sexual assault crimes remains low,” the research team concluded. “Clearly, to reduce sexual violence in Utah, additional funds and support are now needed within the criminal justice system to improve sexual assault investigation and prosecution rates.”

“With the high rates of sexual assault in Utah, continued research on adult and child sexual assault cases is critically important. Research can inform both practice and policy to improve care for sexual assault survivors and reduce sexual violence throughout Utah. Through research and commitment to evidence-based policy development, Utah can reduce sexual violence, leading to a safer and healthier state,” the research team said.


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