Sexual assault does happen in St. George and a lot more often than most people choose to believe.

Camden Caifa, a resident of St. George for the past 17 years, is the Clinical Director of the non-profit organization Southwest Forensic Healthcare. Caifa's nursing group is on the front line in the fight against sexual assault.

The top two things that Caifa wants Southern Utahns to understand is that sexual assault does happen here (1 in 4 female Utahns have been sexually assaulted), and that the persons doing the assaulting are usually someone we know.

"It's not like the TV shows, where the rapist jumps out from behind a bush in the dark and rapes you," Caifa said. "That kind of sexual assault is very, very unusual. Instead, it's usually someone we know and someone in a position of power or authority over you."

Caifa, who was on The Andy Griffin Show Wednesday, said there are a lot of common misconceptions about sexual assault. Her clinical nurses at SW Forensic Health Care provide a free service for those who have been assaulted by collecting evidence, caring for health needs (like treatment of potential STDs from the assailant) and providing a safe haven to help the victims recover.

Caifa, who calls the victims "survivors," said one of the biggest problems is that many people feel guilty and blame themselves for the assault.

"In Utah, less than 10 percent of survivors report their assault to law enforcement," she said. "And it happens to people of all ages -- Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for sexual assault, ... but our local team has seen survivors as mature as 92 years of age."

Caifa also said the long-term effect can be debilitating and last a lifetime.

"Ninety-four percent of women who are raped experience PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), 33 percent of survivors of sexual assault contemplate or plan out suicide and 13 percent actually attempt suicide."

While a perpetrator may serve a few years in prison, many of these survivors are scarred for life.

Some other sobering facts about sexual assault:

  • Every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted
  • 1 out of 4 females in Utah experience sexual violence during their lifetime
  • Nationally 1 in 33  have experienced an attempted or completed rape, 1 in 6 some form of sexual violence.
  • 90% of adult survivors are female.
  • College students are 3x more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence
  • The false reporting rate is 2-4% (depending on the study) and is the lowest false reporting rate of any major crime
  • 70% of rape survivors who do not seek trauma care experience long-term (chronic) health conditions such as abdominal pain, migraine headaches, mental health disorders, chronic neck/back pain, and autoimmune disorders
  • People who have been sexually assaulted are much more likely to utilize drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • 38% of survivors experience failures at school or work
  • 37% of survivors report family/friend relationship problems including lack of trust, increase the incidence of arguments/fights, and lack of connection

Caifa recommends anyone who has been sexually assaulted report it to the authorities immediately. There is no shame in being a victim. She said her non-profit group works closely with the Dove Center and the Children's Justice Center to try and help the survivors and curb the all-too-common crime of sexual assault in our region.

The local phone number for the Southwest Forensic Healthcare is 435-773-2015 and that will connect you directly with Camden Caifa.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline (available 24 hours a day) is 1-800-656-4673.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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