Few sex assault victims report the crime for fear they wont be believed

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(KUTV) If someone were walking on the sidewalk and a car jumped the curb and hit them, you would never blame the victim. You would never ask, "Why were you walking on that sidewalk?"

But when it comes to sexual assault, often times the victim does get the blame.

“Why were you dressed like that?"

"Why were you at that place?"

“Why didn't you just leave?"

It's that type of victim blaming that advocates say results in a shocking number of folks who are assault victims keeping their mouths shut about it, says Turner Bitton, Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"Sexual assault, for whatever reason, our society has a problem with this crime and has a problem with the way we respond to it," Bitton said.

When victims report the crimes but are not taken seriously, it discourages future victims from coming forward. Bitton says it’s already a massive problem with less than 10 percent of victims of sexual assault ever reporting the crime.

"The number one reason that we hear from victims is that they are afraid that they won't be believed," he said.

It’s an understandable fear. Headlines are full of women, men, boys and girls claiming they have been victims of sexual assault while the person they are accusing denies the allegations.

Victims are forced to fight, sometimes publicly and sometimes messily.

The problem is compounded because, when you are a victim of a crime, you turn to police, but police have the burden of proof. Often sexual assault comes down to two people in a room, each coming out with a different story about what happened inside.

The allegations prove unprovable, and many cases never make it into a court room.

That is why Bitton encourages victims to reach out to resource centers, not just police, after they are attacked. Resource centers are equipped to help both victims and, yes, police, navigate the sensitive cases.

"That's one of the things we have been working hard on: letting law enforcement know that we support their mission and that we are here as a resource to help in these cases."

There are a number of victim resource centers in Utah. More information is available at https://www.ucasa.org/resources.

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