Advocates highlight trauma felt by victims after perpetrators are released

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Elizabeth Smart voiced concern and disappointment after news broke that one of her kidnappers was being released earlier than planned. Victim advocates note this is a trauma many people go through when their perpetrators are eventually released.

Alex Merritt is a victim’s advocate at the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic. She notes a perpetrator being released can trigger

“To get an email saying that this person who took so much from your life has another chance at freedom is devastating,” said Merritt.

Thanks to a service called Vinelink victims can track if their perpetrator is moved or released from jail. Merritt said it’s also important to meet with an advocate who can make suggestions, and help guide victims through issues they may face.

“Make another appointment with their counselor, and talking through how this new situation is going to be triggering,” said Merritt. “How going even to the store might raise new flags or new issues.”

Some of that advise includes changing social media profiles to generic pictures and set other things to private.

“I’ll have victims go through and like pages from other cities,” said Merritt. “So even if the perpetrator finds out that’s their Facebook page, they can’t really narrow down what city they live in.”

Lawmakers are also trying to change the law so police, perpetrators, and victims know the exact rules and procedures to follow for no contact orders.

Merritt said victim advocates are free and can normally be found at a police department, non-profit, or the county attorney’s office.

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