Guest Opinions

Victims of sexual violence in Idaho deserve more from us

Jennifer Landhuis
Jennifer Landhuis

The Sexual Violence in Idaho report recently released by the Idaho State Police reflects the truths the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence hears from survivors of sexual assault. Survivors of sexual violence often choose not to report to the criminal justice system for numerous reasons, such as justifiable fear of not being believed, of others finding out about what happened to them, that reporting will not increase their safety or emotional well-being (and in fact could cause additional harm), and that the criminal justice system will not hold the offender accountable.

When individuals do report a sexual assault, they are often faced with a system that reflects our culture’s biases and discrimination. Women, girls, individuals who are gender nonconforming, especially those from marginalized communities (individuals with disabilities, individuals marginalized by their racial or ethnic identities, and individuals who are gay, bisexual or transgender) who report sexual assault, are often met with a system that is doubtful or suspicious of the report.

Here in Idaho, according to the report and reflective of the Idaho Coalition’s own experiences working with victims, approximately 19 percent of reported rapes result in an arrest, only 15 percent have a case filed and only 4 percent result in a sex crime conviction. As a system and as a broader society, we must change this long-standing trend. We must begin to change the way our criminal justice system treats individuals who have experienced sexual assault though the provision of training that addresses myths, biases and discrimination toward individuals who experience sexual assault. We must develop trauma-informed policies for our responders. We must continue to re-examine current Idaho sexual assault statutes to ensure they are reflective of current evidence.

We must continue to lift up the voices of the thousands of girls, women and individuals who are gender nonconforming who experience sexual assault in Idaho We must continue to develop holistic, community solutions far beyond the criminal justice system and develop solutions that do not discriminate against any community. We must take action. We must support individuals who experience sexual assault through the dedication of our time and talents to organizations that work to end sexual violence. We must continue to interrupt a culture that devalues females and individuals who are gender nonconforming, especially those from historically marginalized communities. We must create supportive school environments that recognize, intervene and respond to a culture of violence.

We must listen to and believe survivors and support them through our words and our actions.

Jennifer Landhuis is with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence.