Proposed solution to Utah’s low sexual assault prosecution rates stalls in legislature

The Utah Legislature meets on the Capitol in Salt Lake Metropolis on Thursday, Jan. 27. Solely a fraction of sexual assaults reported in Utah are prosecuted, and a possible resolution proposed within the legislature this session shouldn’t be more likely to advance. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Solely a fraction of sexual assaults reported in Utah are prosecuted, and a possible resolution proposed within the legislature this session shouldn’t be more likely to advance.

Analysis signifies a majority of sexual assaults in Utah go unreported, but Utah’s rape price stays above the nationwide common.

A KSL Investigation into Utah’s low sexual assault prosecution charges discovered poor monitoring and reporting all through the state’s felony justice system make it tough to know the true scope of the issue.

“After we suppose, ‘All proper, we’re one of many worst states within the nation for rape circumstances, what can we do to vary this?’ Now we have to take a look at what are our legal guidelines,” mentioned Dr. Julie Valentine, a BYU nursing professor on the forefront of sexual assault analysis in Utah.

Valentine has labored carefully with Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, who’s sponsoring HB98, a invoice launched within the legislature this yr that might give prosecutors an alternative choice.

Utah regulation at present permits prices for first-degree felony rape, which requires prosecutors to show a sufferer resisted or mentioned no. The following out there cost is sexual battery, a misdemeanor. HB98 would create a third-degree felony cost of sexual conduct with out affirmative consent, which might apply in cases wherein a sufferer didn’t explicitly give consent.

“We’d be capable to seize these circumstances the place a sufferer is unable to say no,” mentioned Valentine. “They is perhaps incapacitated, they is perhaps a drug-facilitated sexual assault, they is perhaps experiencing one thing referred to as tonic immobility or rape freeze syndrome, the place the concern is so excessive that they are unable to react and push again to point no or to say no, however they didn’t comply with this sexual assault.”

The Utah Affiliation of Prison Protection Attorneys has opposed the measure. Legal professional Steve Burton cited issues that affirmative consent shouldn’t be a broadly understood idea.

“It goes towards sort of the ideas of duty, the ideas of felony justice that we hope to guard,” he mentioned. “In an effort to make somebody a felony, as a way to convict anyone, and doubtlessly sentenced them to jail or jail, we need to ensure that they’re doing so as a result of they’re doing one thing that they know is incorrect. And this invoice goes a step too far as a result of it criminalizes issues that folks might not perceive is incorrect.”

Valentine mentioned the invoice is patterned after legal guidelines which have labored nicely in different states.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, seen here in the House Building at the Capitol complex in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, is proposing legislation to give prosecutors more options in sexual assault cases.
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, seen right here within the Home Constructing on the Capitol complicated in Salt Lake Metropolis on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, is proposing laws to offer prosecutors extra choices in sexual assault circumstances.

“This actually can be a primary step to cut back sexual violence in our state by being one other device in a prosecutor’s toolbox for prosecuting sexual assault circumstances,” mentioned Valentine.

Nevertheless it’s a step Utah’s lawmakers have been gradual to think about this session. The invoice has but to be heard in a committee.

“It is most likely not going to maneuver this session,” mentioned Romero.

An almost similar invoice – additionally sponsored by Romero – failed final yr. However she says she will not surrender, pointing to different sexual assault-related measures she’s sponsored which have handed.

Romero and Valentine labored collectively on the laws that compelled the state to lastly take a look at a backlog of shelved sexual assault kits. She additionally had success in 2020 with a invoice declaring that earlier consent doesn’t represent consent throughout future sexual interactions.

“, it is irritating for me, but additionally, it is about training and consciousness and shifting how we view issues,” she mentioned.

Romero plans to work on the invoice over the summer season and take a look at once more.

In case you have skilled sexual violence, you may entry assist and sources by calling Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-421-1100. You may also name the Rape Restoration Heart Disaster Line at 801-467-7273 or the Nationwide Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 at no cost, confidential counseling.

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