A bill that makes rape reporting easier could expand abortion access for victims
Utah House Representative Democrat Jennifer Dailey-Provost of District 24 will reintroduce a bill to broaden the list of entities to whom a victim of rape can legally report to, including crisis centers, domestic violence resource centers and physicians.
Utah's abortion ban, Abortion Prohibition Amendments, became effective after the recent Roe V. Wade overturn by the Supreme Court. It requires a victim of sexual assault who wants to terminate a pregnancy that results from rape or incest to only report to law enforcement agencies.
This law is currently on holddue to a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the ACLU of Utah. While the ban is paused, another Utah law banning abortions after 18 weeks is in effect.
Alexandra Allen, assistant director and victim advocate at Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, says the current law does not take into account the many paths victims take to heal from sexual assault or rape. She says many victims do not report at all out of fear of the justice system, fear or retaliation, fear of judgment, being accused of rape myths or more.
“We know that most victims don’t report to the police. We have to look at ourselves as a society and our rape myths," Allen said. "We have rape myths about what a victim is wearing, were they drinking, were they not drinking, all of these things play into the guilt and shame a victim may feel. These rape myths play into how a victim may process their next steps.”
Representative Daily-Provost has previously sponsored a similar bill, House Bill 65 under Abortion Amendments, in the 2020 General Session.
Daily-Provost says it is imperative to offer survivors of rape or incest multiple avenues to report the crime and receive the care and treatment they need without being re-traumatized.
Allen says a victim of rape should never be ashamed to step forward. As a victim advocate, Allen says she will always believe a victim and their story to give them the best support as they move forward.
“We believe you. We as a victim service provider community fight for you and we do everything we can to support you and your decision of what healing looks like," Allen said. "As a society we need to make it easier for victims to follow their path of healing.”
Nationally, only one in five victims report after experiencing sexual assault. Rape is currently the most under-reported crime.