Professor: Current Events Impact Reporting Of Sexual Assault
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – High-profile current events—like the #MeToo movement or the ongoing trial for a former Utah State University football player charged with rape—can influence the reporting of sexual misconduct, according to a sexual assault nurse examiner.
“The things going on in society significantly impact if… victims (will) come forward to report,” said Dr. Julie Valentine, who is also a nursing professor at Brigham Young University. “I think the #MeToo movement has profoundly impacted our reporting rates.”
Other events, however, have had a chilling effect, Valentine said. She pointed to a drop-off in reporting after the contentious Senate confirmation hearings in the fall of 2018 for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“There was a lot questioning,” Valentine said of the climate during the hearings. “A lot of people were talking about false reporting.”
On Utah college campuses, Valentine said very few students report incidents to police, which creates two problems: victims aren’t getting help and serial perpetrators aren’t being identified.
A survey of more than 12,700 students at BYU in the spring of 2017 found that only one percent of unwanted sexual contact were reported to campus police.
“The majority of incidents of unwanted sexual contact in this study (64%) were reported to no formal organization,” said BYU’s Report on the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault.
After changes were implemented at BYU, Valentine said reporting of sexual misconduct quickly went up.
“At BYU, between 2016 and 2017, (there was) a 400 percent increase in students reporting to the Title IX Office,” she said.
An increase in the number of sexual assaults being reported is a good thing, Valentine said.
“It doesn’t mean that there are more sexual assaults occurring,” she said. “What it means is that victims are starting to trust the system.”
She reminds Utahns of three simple phrases that can be used to help victims of sexual assault.
“If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, first you’re going say, ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you.’ Then you’re going to say, ‘I believe you.’ Then you’re going to say, ‘What can I do to help?,’” she said.
Utah offers free hotlines that are open around the clock to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Utah Domestic Violence Link Line: 800-897-LINK (5465)
Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 888-421-1100
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