Provo police receive grant to help sexual assault victims

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Provo Police announced on Oct. 31 they received a $538,739 grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women for their improvement in helping and working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

This grant was a nationwide competition Provo Police applied for in February. They received the results at the beginning of October. The money will go toward building more resources to help victims of rape. This announcement comes shortly after BYU’s reformation of Title IX, specifically directed toward victims of rape and assault.

BYU assistant professor and certified sexual assault examiner Julie Valentine said she was thrilled to hear the news as it will be a great benefit to the community.

“This isn’t just going to benefit just BYU; this will benefit all of Utah county,” Valentine said. “Rape is a health care issue on many, many levels: physically, emotionally. And we need to address the health care need for victims right up front.”

According to Provo Police victims services program coordinator Kortney Hughes, a main part of the grant money will go toward creating Wasatch Forensic Nursing in Utah County, a team of sexual assault nurses who will respond to victims of rape at any hospital within 45 minutes to an hour to conduct a rape kit.

“There’s lots of research done about the benefit of forensic nurses doing the examination,” Valentine said. “Communities with these teams have a better evidence collection, victims are more likely to stay engaged and victims report better emotional health because they have someone trained to help.” 

Valentine said this will also help more people report rape cases. It currently takes many hours, sometimes an entire day to wait for a rape kit to be conducted, in which time the victim cannot eat, drink or shower in order to preserve possible DNA evidence.

“With Wasatch Forensic there’ll be a quick response,” Hughes said. “Victims can get done quicker and start healing quicker.”

Hughes hopes to have this program going by May at the latest.

The funds will also be used to create more positions within the police department specifically for assault victims. Hughes said one will be a domestic violence prosecutor who will work on high risk cases and closely with victims.

Provo Police posted many tips, resources and warning signs on their Facebook page throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Posts listed warning signs of domestic violence, statistics, what victims should do if they are currently experiencing violence and resources victims can turn to. This is also where a full statement about the grant can be found.

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