Report on rape in Utah and the number of only 1 in 10 survivors of sexual assault reporting the crime quickly makes a haunting appearance.
Back in January 2014, City Weekly
published a cover story
about how dismal both the numbers of complaints that were taken seriously by law enforcement were, and how even more dismal were the number of cases that actually made it to court.
In the ensuing two and a half years, local papers and TV stations have pursued issues surrounding the testing of rape kits and rape culture in Utah that have brought pressure to bear on law enforcement and the state to both process kits faster and address the backlog of unprocessed kits.
An additional and newly emerged development from the publicity is a substantial increase in the number of rape survivors coming forward to report their assaults.
Clients of the Salt Lake City Rape Recovery Center have told RRC employees that news coverage, particularly about rape kits, whether positive or negative, was a factor in them seeking services.
The RRC's executive director Mara Height says the demand for her agency's services by victims reporting rape at hospitals has grown since 2013. In an email, she writes, "In 2013, the Hospital Response Team provided 1,350 hours of hospital advocacy. In 2015, that number had risen to 1,923 hours; up 42.5 percent over two years. In 2016, continued growth is expected—with a 20 percent spike in hospital response services over 2015 rates as of 2/28/16."
Rape victim advocate Alana Kindness, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says she isn't ready to speculate yet on what the increase means, noting that Wasatch Forensic (formerly Salt Lake Sexual Assault Nursing Examiners), which also responds to hospitals when a rape victim reports, in their case to conduct extensive forensic examinations called Code Rs, has also seen "a marked increase in the request for services. There's been a dramatic increase in the number of Spanish-speaking clients that they are working with as well."
Kindness says the factors that have shaped the increase aren't clear as yet, and will require in-depth, confidential surveys of survivors to understand them better. "I would say it's entirely reasonable to expect that an increase in opportunities to talk about [sexual assault], and demonstrated support for survivors, is going to increase the number of victims who are coming forward.'
While Kindness says the increase "is an encouraging indication that we are moving in the right direction," she points out that with only 1 in 10 victims reporting, "we have a lot of room to grow."
Part of getting the message out about providing access to all communities in the state to services and prevention efforts is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. The Rape Recovery Center (RRC) is hosting a number of events around the theme "Prevention is Possible."
On April 20, from 5.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m at the Rape Recovery Center there's a free community art event open to survivors and their allies called Art for Healing.
On April 22, from 6 p.m. till 11 p.m., there is Songs for Survivors, the third annual benefit concert for the center. Tickets are $10 for all ages and $15 for 21 years and above.
On April 30, from 6 p.m. till 11.30 p.m., Sisters of the Moon of Utah County will be hosting a fundraiser for the RRC called Gutsy Goddess for Charity Ball. Tickets are $40.
Go to raperecoverycenter.org
or call 801-467-7282 for more details.