Secret shame: Utah's sex offenders and their victims

Published: Sunday, March 16 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Doug Goldsmith, director of The Children's Center, talks with a young abuse victim. "Abuse leads to abuse. It doesn't stop," Goldsmith says.

Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

First in a four-part series.

Elizabeth Smart. Most Utahns have heard about her bizarre kidnapping and sexual assault at the hands of two fundamentalist religious zealots.

Oprah Winfrey. Most people know the media mogul was a victim of sexual abuse as a young girl.

But what about Angela, of Salt Lake City, whose teenage brother started sodomizing her when she was 6 years old?

Or Melissa, who was sexually abused by her father — and finally told on him when she saw her dad raping one of her childhood friends.

Or Michael, who was raped by a football coach at age 9. A victim who now, as an adult, says, "If I did not have therapy and was not able to reveal my secret of being sexually abused, there is no doubt that I would be an abuser today."

Without money, acclaim and notoriety, how are the thousands of nameless, faceless victims of sexual assault in Utah faring?

And what about the perpetrators of these crimes?

One third of Utah inmates are sex offenders, the highest percentage in the nation.

That means about one in three criminals has sexually abused a boy or girl, raped a woman, exploited a minor, enticed children over the Internet, had sex with a teenager or sodomized a child.

The vast majority of the 1,892 currently incarcerated sex offenders prey on children.

But how much do Utahns know — or want to know — about people like Robert Michael Tubbs, who used his position as youth baseball coach and Scout leader to sodomize teenage boys in northern Utah before ending up in prison?

What about David K. Resendez, convicted and sentenced for sexual abuse of his 11-year-old stepdaughter and her friend? Six times, the man got out of prison. Six times, he violated parole and had to go back. Today he is out again, living alone in a Spartan Salt Lake County apartment.

Utahns might have heard of the notorious "Capitol Hill Rapist," who was convicted in connection with the rapes of nearly a dozen women in 1986 and 1987. But do many know the rapist's name is Bob Lee Boog Jr.? Do they know Boog is now out of prison and on parole in Salt Lake City?

"There's no profile of a sex offender. There's no profile of a victim," said Kevin Gully, a clinical psychologist for Primary Children's Medical Center.

Child therapist Angela Shields, pausing before an appointment with a 5-year-old who'd been raped by a 13-year-old neighbor boy, said, "People need to realize this can happen in any neighborhood at any time."

"I tried to make her believe: 'We aren't hurting anybody. I'm not hurting you.' " Larry Burt 46, convicted of assaulting a young girl from 6 to 17, in a February interview from the Utah State Prison

Every day, Utahns pass over headlines in the newspaper and clips on TV that lay out the legacy of sex abuse against adults and children.

This week: "Provo man arrested in sex-abuse probe."

Last week: "Teacher pleads guilty in teen sex case."

Last month: "Pedophile to waive rights in sentencing."

One year ago: "Church leader charged in child sex-abuse case."

Five years ago: "Orem molester gets life in prison."

And as it turns out, these headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, because for every sexual assault case prosecuted, there are hundreds more incidents where a victim didn't tell, wasn't believed, didn't pursue charges or wasn't brave enough to take the stand at trial.

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