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A new study looks at the experiences of Utah women who have been sexually assaulted

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Research shows Utah sexual assault assailants are predominantly acquaintances (58.0%) or strangers (18.5%).

A new research snapshot released by the Utah Women & Leadership Project revealed updated information surrounding overall wellness of women who have experienced sexual assault in Utah.

The Utah Women & Leadership project released a new research snapshot on August 3, centering around the status and well-being of women who have experienced sexual assault within the state.

Julie Valentine, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Research at Brigham Young University and co-author of this report, said this collaborative project is a continuation of work she and her team conducted beginning in 2011, in order to gain an understanding of what was happening to survivors of sexual assault cases as they went through the reporting process and aftermath of the crime.

“It was really looking at thousands of charts that would be in our storage room and thinking ‘what could we learn about sexual assault if we were to take all of this information from these charts, aggregate that information, what could we learn about our patients or victims,'" Valentine said. "And what could we learn about sexual assault in Utah that could help inform how we reduce sexual violence?”

Findings of this study conclude that rape is the only violent crime in Utah with higher rates than the national average. Additionally, Valentine said the prosecution of sexual assault crimes throughout the state remains low due to a number of factors researchers are continuing to study.

“We’ve made huge strides in the sexual assault kit submission rate—up to 98%, and yet our prosecution of these cases is still low," Valentine said. "Law enforcement is still only referring about a third of the cases to prosecution.”

Valentine said the most shocking piece of research she and her team found revolved around the mental illness in survivors of sexual assault cases.

“We have a very high percentage of victims that report for an examination following a rape, over 47% that self-disclose mental illness," Valentine said. "You can consider a perpetrator or assailant when they look at who they target, it might be the victim who is sitting off to the side because they are depressed, or anxious.”

Valentine said the best thing individuals can do to support those who have experienced sexual assault is to believe their story and allow them to heal in their own, personal way.

Sydney Lasike graduated from Dixie State University, in St. George, Utah, in 3 years with a bachelors degree in Media Studies (Multimedia Journalism Emphasis). There, she competed as a student-athlete on the women’s volleyball team, and was the Features Editor of the school newspaper, Dixie Sun News. She was awarded the 2021 Media Studies Student of the Year Award, and graduated with Latin Honors - Magna Cum Laude.