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BYU professor fighting back against low sex-assault prosecutions

By Mary Richards and Tracie Snowder | Posted - May 12th, 2014 @ 11:38am

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SALT LAKE CITY — A recent study is shining a light on the low number of prosecutions that follow sexual assaults in Utah, and advocates hope new efforts can convince prosecutors to give time and attention to these cases.

BYU nursing professor Julie Valentine is a sexual-assault nurse examiner and has done hundreds of examinations, but she told the BYU Universe she had never heard back about any follow-up and only testified in court about one case.

Valentine decided to conduct a study with the help of two students and an ORCA grant to look at outcomes of prosecutions with sexual assault nurse examiners. Her study found only 6 percent of reported sexual assaults in Salt Lake County ended up being prosecuted. The study was published in 2013 but is getting more attention after a recent Salt Lake City Police department review showed a backlog of hundreds of unprocessed rape kits dating back 10 years.

Salt Lake City officials recently announced beginning June 1, the process will be improved.

"We want to create a process that is transparent, that also focuses on system improvement, that recognizes this an opportunity for us ... as law enforcement and the community at large to look at areas that we can improve upon," district attorney Sim Gill said in April.

Advocates told the Universe that cases are often dropped because the suspect was unknown, from lack of evidence or the victim changes their story.

For more information, read the entire story by Liesl Hansen for The Universe.

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