SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – New data released from the Utah Department of Public Safety shows the number of rape cases is on the rise in Utah. Teenagers make up the largest demographic arrested for the crime.
Incidents of rape rose 4.49 percent in 2018. Teenagers ages 15-19 accounted for a majority of the arrests.
“Specifically seeing more arrests with the younger age group I think indicates that there has been a lot of work done on the juvenile justice end,” explained Mara Haight, Executive Director of the Rape Recovery Center.
Haight says the increase in numbers doesn’t necessarily indicate more victims, rather, it shows an influx of people reporting, which in turn is leading to more arrests.
“We feel very strongly that it’s more people reporting. We can see that as a community-based provider that doesn’t have reporting as a qualifier for people coming in for our services, we are seeing a higher proportion of our clients that are engaging in the criminal justice system than we have before. But we are not seeing that more people are being sexually assaulted. More people are talking about it,” she said.
Haight believes teaching healthy dynamics around sex and relationships will help change the conversation.
“The criminal justice system is not going to solve this for us. We really have to empower young people with more information and create a culture around positive consent — enthusiastic consent.”
Senator Kathleen Riebe, D-Salt Lake, opened a bill file for the upcoming legislative session. The language is still protected but she told ABC4 News that if her legislation is signed into law it would allow teachers to create a more robust conversation about sex education.
“I would like kids to understand what aggressive behavior is and also how to prevent aggressive behavior, how to say no, how to engage in a healthy relationship and what that means to have a healthy relationship,” she said.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Rape Recovery Center’s 24/7 crisis line at (801) 467-7273. It’s free and confidential.