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Woman who helped change Utah sexual assault law faces accused rapist

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WEST VALLEY CITY — A West Valley City woman will come face to face with the man who kidnapped her 15 years ago. He's up for parole, and she's fighting to keep him in prison.

On Dec. 30, 1997, Jenny Galvez' life was changed forever. Galvez was 15 years old. A man approached her in a parking lot in Kearns, followed her in his truck and asked her to read a note.

"It just said, 'If you're reading this, come with me and do what I say. I have a gun in my pocket. I will shoot you and kill you if you try to scream, run away or try to do anything stupid.'"

The man kidnapped her, and Galvez says he then raped her in the parking lot of a West Valley City apartment complex before letting her go.

"A lot of it, I remember clearly," Galvez said. "I thought he was going to kill me that night. I thought that was it."

I thought he was going to kill me that night. I thought that was it.

–Jenny Galvez

Galvez's attacker, Kevin Blanke, was not caught until four and a half years later, when he tried to kidnap a 6-year-old girl in Salt Lake City. But for Galvez, it was too late to prosecute.

"I thought I would be protected but instead, he got a break," Galvez said.

Prosecutor Joy Natale said that despite significant evidence of rape, she could only charge Blanke for aggravated kidnapping. At the time, the statute of limitations for rape was four years.

"It's frustrating for everyone involved in the system," Natale said.

A judge sentenced Blanke to 1 to 15 years in prison for kidnapping Galvez, and up to life in prison for trying to kidnap the young girl. But that wasn't justice for Galvez.

"It's not fair what happened to me, but it's especially not fair that he didn't get charged," Galvez said.

"I guess it just shows that light can come from a really dark situation." Jenny Galvez

Galvez took her case to the Hill and worked closely with the late Sen. Ed Mayne. In 2005, Gov. Jon Huntsman signed a new law that increased the statute of limitations for rape from four to eight years. Three years later the law changed again, and now there is no time limit.

"By changing the law, it really gave prosecutors and law enforcement some additional tools we didn't have before to make sure that these dangerous sex offenders were held accountable," Natale said.

But that can be tough, when only 10 percent of rape victims in Utah report the crime. Advocates say the law now encourages more victims to come forward.

"It helps them understand that their cases will be taken credibly, that they will be believed and that helps overcome some of those barriers to reporting and helps us hold offenders accountable," said Alana Kindness with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"I guess it just shows that light can come from a really dark situation," Galvez said.

Galvez has moved on with her life. She's married with two young girls. But she'll never forget the man who did this to her. In 2006, Galvez faced Blanke at his first parole hearing. She'll speak at another hearing July 3 when he's up for parole again.

"I'm not going to feel safe for any other women or children or anybody in general if they let him out," she said. She'll ask the Board of Pardons to keep Blanke, a man prosecutors call a predator, in prison for the rest of his life.


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