Trigger warning: This article mentions topics of rape and sexual assault.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — One in three women in Utah has been sexually assaulted, and one in six reported having been raped, according to Dr. Susan Madsen, founder, and director of Utah Women & Leadership Project.

Madsen also points out that over three-fourths of all sexual assault victims in Utah are under 18 years old. In her report, Madsen says sexual violence costs the state of Utah nearly $5 billion annually, which equals to about $1,700 per resident.

Those statistics are why the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, victim advocates, and representatives from rape crisis centers gathered at the State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 2, to educate legislators and the community at large about sexual assault prevention in Utah.

In accordance with Sexual Assault Prevention Advocacy Day, the meeting addressed statewide sexual assault statistics, prevention measures, and the bills currently being discussed that affect survivors.

Advocates are now calling for a more proactive approach to efforts related to sexual assaults instead of a reactive one. Madsen notes that legislators can do better by investing in sexual assault prevention than spending millions incarcerating offenders.

“We have to have more funding in the state of Utah and more legislation to really change things,” Madsen said. “We need to turn the tide here in Utah.”

Representatives from UCASA say they hope the event will give policymakers and community members an opportunity to form relationships and introduce legislation related to protecting sexual assault survivors in the future.

Minority Leader Angela Romero (D-Salt Lake City) attended the meeting and discussed a bill she is sponsoring in the 2023 legislative session relating to the definitions of rape crisis centers and sexual assault counselors.

“What’s happening right now is that there is money we could use, but we can’t use it right now until we have defined what rape crisis centers are,” Romero said.

The House Committee passed another bill unanimously on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to appropriate more than $1.5 million to a victim services account, which can be used to fund Utah Children’s Justice Centers, mental health services for victims, resources for sexual assault and domestic violence victims and any administrative costs for providing these services.

“I feel honored to help you,” said Bill Sponsor Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan). “It breaks my heart that you look at the level of services the victims need, and you’re able to provide just a morsel of those services to just a small fraction of people that need them.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100.