Rape victim shares her story as West Valley City PD launches new special victims unit

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jan 29, 2015

WEST VALLEY CITY -- Sexual violence: Experts say it's a very difficult crime for a woman to report to police, and now West Valley City is working to change that by creating a specialized unit to handle such cases.

A Salt Lake City woman chose to share her story of abuse with FOX 13 News, and she said the way police handled her case put obstacles in her way.

“I was raped on February 5, 2012,” Jessica Ripley said.

On that night, Jessica Ripley said she was celebrating her sister's birthday at a club. FOX 13 News does not publish the names of survivors of sexual assaults except in cases when that individual wishes to share their story publicly.

“After that, things went black and blurry for me," she said. "I ended up being found in the parking lot of the Shilo Inn, beaten and bloodied with my pants around my ankles on the ground. Some strangers found me."

Ripley said when a detective came to interview her at the hospital--she had no memory of what happened. That officer called the case consensual, but the doctor who examined Ripley disagreed.

“This was rape. This was not consensual at all,” Ripley said.

Ripley said the lack of compassion and understanding from police made the whole experience worse.

“I feel like I’ve had to become my own detective, my own advocate, you know, my own fighter because I didn't have any of that support,” Ripley said.

Situations like Ripley’s are why the West Valley City Police Department launched a new special victims unit. The department said the nine detectives will handle 300 to 500 cases a year.

“This is ultimately the most talented group of guys we've had in a city that have worked this type of crime,” said Steve O’Camb a Detective Sergeant with the special victims unit.

Chief Lee Russo, West Valley City PD, said their goal is to better serve survivors of such attacks.

“In the end, we'll have a victim that is able to get closure and better be able to deal with and process the event that's traumatized them,” he said.

But some want to know why this unit is only made up of men.

“The largest number of victims, more than 95 percent are male against female, so it helps for a female to meet a female in this cases,” said Holly Mullen, who is the Executive Director for the Rape Recovery Center. “I have spoken with some of the members of the force, and they said they're going to work really hard to add more females on, and I take them to their word."

West Valley City Police also said they have female detectives available for certain situations.