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Utah commission releases sexual assault data online

Sun Advocate community editor

The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, in conjunction with the office of crime victims reparations, has released a comprehensive study concerning women and their experience with sexual violence state wide.

The data demonstrates the effect these crimes have on their victims.

It is that stated hope of the CCJJ that this information will aid the state in policy development and program improvement to "better address the needs of those who have become, or may become, victims of sexual violence."

Background information given in the report explains that unfortunately, sexual violence occurs in the national society much more regularly than many recognize.

"Sexual violence often leaves in its wake both physical and psychological impacts for those who are victimized," said the study. "Physical impacts may include chronic pelvic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, back pain and facial pain."

"In up to a third of the cases, the victim may contract a sexually transmitted disease," continued the report.

Additionally, one study estimated that 32,000 pregnancies per year are the result of sexual violence.

"Psychological impacts include symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as emotional detachment, sleep disturbances and flashbacks," continued the study. "Immediate reactions may include shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety or withdrawal. Victims are also at an increased risk of experiencing depression and may be more likely to attempt or commit suicide."

As heinous as these impacts are, many Utahns would be surprised how common the crimes are, said the collaborative document. Of the violent crimes that occur in Utah, rape is the only one in which the state ranks above the national average.

Utah's violent crime rate is historically half to three times lower than the national average when considering crimes such as murder, robbery and aggravated assault. When the consideration is taken into account that only about 20 percent of those who were raped in the prior year report it, the problem comes into clear focus.

A 1995 study showed that 93 percent of sexual assault victims knew their attacker and that most commonly the victim and the perpetrator were acquaintances.

A summary of the report's findings concludes that:

•Rape is the only category of violent crime in which Utah's rate exceeds that nation's average.

•Out of all of the respondents to the study, 12.7 percent reported being raped in their lifetime.

•Survey finding indicate that nearly one in three Utah women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives.

•Child molestation was the most common form of sexual violence reported, followed closely by rape.

•Very few incidence of sexual assault were reported as having occurred during the prior year.

•More than half of the women (51.2 percent) who reported being sexually assaulted in any manner were victimized by only one individual.

•Almost 90 percent of the victims, experienced their first assault before their 18th birthday.

For further information, the full study can be found through the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Research and Data Unit at the state capitol complex or online.

While all licensed clinical therapists are held to mandatory reporting standards for patients under the age of 18, licensed professional counselor Karl Kraync says there are rape crisis hotlines in the state that can provide underage individuals with counseling on a anonymous basis.

"We are required to report all incidences that come out in therapy if it concerns a minor," said Kraync. "However, if an adult comes to us with a sexual assault problem we do whatever we can to get them to work through the trauma, hopefully causing the individual to confront their attacker and get a sexual predator off the street. But the choice is completely theirs if they are an adult, if they don't want to report we do what we can as a therapist to work them through the issues and the trauma."

Some rape crisis hotlines in Utah include:

•The Community Abuse Prevention Services whose crisis line number is 435-752-4493.

•Center for Women and Children in Crisis whose crisis line is 801-356-2511.

•New Horizons Crisis Center whose crisis line is 435-896-9294.

The dangers associated with sexual abuse are serious even years after the event, continued Kraync.

"The PTSD associated with sexual assaults can be devastating and take years to show up in a person's behavior," he explained. "A high percentage of my clients who suffered prior sexual abuse eventually have issues with substance abuse or other mental health problems. It is important that they work through what has happened to them and it is extremely important that they realize that no matter the circumstance what happened was not their fault."

Kraync cautioned all individuals to be very conscious of their social environment especially when alcohol is involved.

"No matter the case, if a women says no and anything happens after that then the situation becomes rape. Regardless of how a person is dressed or their past history or previous conduct, no means no and that is all there is to it," concluded Kraync.

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