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Sexual assault help is growing for victims

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 News) – More work is being done to help victims of sexual assault as Utah ranks as one of the highest in the country in reported rape cases.
SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 News) – More work is being done to help victims of sexual assault as Utah ranks as one of the highest in the country in reported rape cases.

The Clothesline Project is a national addressing the issue of violence against women. The victims express their emotions by decorating a T-shirt.

Several of those shirts were created by University of Utah students and on display at Salt Lake City Hall in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Victims at the U, both men and women, seek help from Violence Against Women Coordinator Angie Makomenaw.

“Our first instinct is to say, ‘What did I do wrong?’ when you did nothing wrong and it’s the perpetrator that should be responsible,” Makomenaw said.

After a decade of trying to pass a dating violence protection bill, it finally passed in the 2013 Utah Legislature. It allows victims of domestic violence to file a protective order even if they’re not married or don’t live with the abuser.

Makomenaw said she knew of a handful of students who would have benefited from the law if it has been made available to them sooner.

But the victims are not just students or women. Utah veterans are fighting a different war at home.

Breeze Hannaford is the Military Sexual Trauma Program Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Salt Lake City.

She said one in 100 men and one in four women report military sexual trauma, but the number is about equal because there are more men in the military.

“As hard as it is for women I think it's even harder for men to come forward and share that this has happened to them,” Hannaford said.

Hannaford, a licensed clinical social worker, said there is currently about 1,000 Utah veterans seeking care for sexual abuse. Many times the abuse happened about 15 to 30 years prior, but veterans chose not to speak up for decades.

Law enforcement agencies, victim’s advocates and therapists and making progress are working together to make progress in the way they respond to sexual assault crimes.

According to a worker at Utah’s state crime lab, the agency is working to streamline the processing of DNA samples to get results faster and help victims.

Makomenaw said great strides are being made, but it is still an uphill battle.

“We live in a rape culture,” she said. “We live in a culture that doesn't talk about sex. We’re not allowed to talk about it in schools. I work with university students and they even don’t understand what the concept is of what is consent.”

If you or someone you know if a victim of rape or sexual assault, click here for resources through the Utah Department of Health.

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