Utah puts $5 billion annual price tag on cost of sexual violence

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 20:23:51-05

CAPITOL HILL - The economic impact of sexual violence in Utah is laid out in a recent study put together for the first time by the Utah Department of Health and Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Utah spends nearly $5 billion on sexual violence costs a year, or about $1,700 per person. This covers everything from medical care, to unemployment and legal expenses of a victim, to the arrest and investigation of a perpetrator.

“We wanted to be able to show that even by preventing one or two cases we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars” said Teresa Brechlin, Violence Prevention Coordinator for the Utah Department of Health.

Among the key findings:

  • 1 in 3 women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives
  • Utah ranks 9th in the nation for reported rape
  • 1 in 8 women and 1 in 50 men will experience rape in their lifetimes

“This tells the story of really what I have lived my entire life,” Deann Tilton said.

Tilton is a rape survivor and founder of “Talk to a Survivor.” She says there’s costly fallout for victims of sexual violence that needs to be addressed.

The report also shows nearly 85 percent of funding goes toward perpetrators, and about 15 percent goes to victims--with little money poured into prevention efforts.

“I believe in our state, we're very frugal, we're very thrifty," Tilton said. "We're innovative. We can figure out how to juggle our dollars til’ more money goes to prevention."

Brechlin said the report shows resources are distributed disproportionately.

“We can get perpetrators in for treatment," Brechlin said "We can confine them so they don't hurt other people, but there really isn't that follow-through for victims."

Researchers said this type of study is long overdue, but it’s not too late to move the discussion forward.

“The good news is we know now and we can start making it a priority,” said Donna Kelly of the Utah Prosecution Council.

Click here to read the study.