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Secret shame: Utah's sex offenders and their victims

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 9:19 a.m. MDT

Doug Goldsmith, director of The Children's Center, talks with a young abuse victim. 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."

Sex offenders walk toward their dorms at Utah State Prison in January. The prison has a high population of sex offenders. (Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News) Sex offenders walk toward their dorms at Utah State Prison in January. The prison has a high population of sex offenders. (Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News)
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?
Law enforcement officers make an arrest in January. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News) Law enforcement officers make an arrest in January. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News)
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."

Tom Patterson () Tom Patterson ()
"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.
"There's a lot of child sexual assault that goes on that doesn't get reported," said Alana Kindness, Utah Coalition Against Sexual Violence executive director. "And there are a lot of perpetrators that aren't being held accountable."
For every case where investigators do bring a person to court, experts say there are dozens where the offender didn't get caught, wasn't suspected, and dozens more where police or prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to move forward.
Still, the Utah State Prison is bursting at the seams with an unprecedented high population of sex offenders among its inmate population.

"He said if I told, he would go to jail and my mom would go into a mental hospital. He said my sister would leave me alone and I'd have to go to a foster home. He said no one would love me." 11-year-old Jenny in a therapy session, talking about herstepfather's abuse

Perpetrators aren't, for the most part, guys who jump out of bushes. They are men you know. Men whose children play with your children. Men who attend your church. Men who teach or coach your children. Men who live in your house.
They are grandfathers, uncles, teachers, boyfriends, baby sitters and husbands. A few are women. Authorities say 80 percent of them know their victims.
"It's more likely to be uncle so-and-so rather than someone who grabs them," said Jeremy Shaw, a Adult Probation and Parole supervisor in the sex offender unit.
It is a dirty, exhausting, secretive, heartbreaking phenomenon, says Heather Stringfellow, who took over the helm of the Rape Recovery Center of Utah after nine years as a sex crimes and domestic violence detective.
And Utah is up to its neck in it.

"Sex crimes continue to be that place where nobody really wants to go." Heather Stringfellow former sex crimes detective and director of Utah's Rape Recovery center

During a three-month investigation by the Deseret Morning News, reporters talked to 85 different people whose lives touch the pervasive and gut-wrenching issue of sexual abuse in Utah. Interviews included frank discussions with victims, therapists, investigators, judges, victim advocates, parole agents, doctors, corrections and government officials and more than two dozen sex offenders.
The investigation included a review of documents on the electrifying issue of sex offender recidivism.
Reporters observed children in therapy, accompanied a task force in a night raid to find fugitive sex offenders and went with parole officers on surprise visits of sex offenders at home. They went to the Utah State Prison to meet inmates and into the supervised halfway houses where inmates go to assimilate back into society.
The findings, reported in a four-day series that begins today, are startling and include the following details:
• One in four girls — and one in eight boys — is sexually abused before age 18.
• The average age of a victim is 10 years old.
• Only 2 percent of perpetrators are a stranger to the victim. The rest are friends, relatives, baby sitters, acquaintances or members of their own family.
• More than 70 percent of convicted sex offenders in the Utah State Prison are there for victimizing a child under age 18.
• At Children's Justice Centers throughout Utah, detectives interview children who are victims of all crimes. Between 85 and 90 percent of the crimes involve sexual abuse.
• Of nearly 1,900 sex offenders in prison, only 120 are receiving treatment there. Despite repeated requests, the Legislature has not increased sex offender treatment funding in more than 10 years.
"Sex abuse or assault is a life-changing event," said JoAnn Zaharias, Salt Lake County district attorney director of counseling. She prepares witnesses as young as age 3 to testify in court.
But the state does not provide any funding for services for victims of sexual violence or for prevention of sexual violence, Kindness said.
And experts say this should be Utahns' greatest cause for concern. Because victims of sexual abuse, especially children, become sexualized in unhealthy ways — and these inappropriately sexualized children often become offenders themselves.
"Abuse leads to abuse. It doesn't stop," said Doug Goldsmith, director of The Children's Center at the University of Utah. "If we turn our eyes, today's sexual abuse will lead to more."
The investigation also showed a startling increase in the numbers of juvenile sex offenders coming into Utah's criminal justice system.
Despite these facts and the awareness that nearly every resident knows someone whose life has been touched by sexual assault, the topic remains cloaked in shame, secrecy and blinding emotion.
Public officials with sex abuse in their own families were glad to see a media spotlight on what they called a vital issue but are unwilling to talk publicly for fear of judgments by neighbors, colleagues and friends.
The issue also highlights this society's reluctance to discuss sexuality and the difficult details of these intimate crimes.
"It is a heinous issue," says Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who has pushed several pieces of legislation to toughen laws and requirements against sex offenders. "It's just not one you want to talk about."
"It's a really difficult topic for people to talk about. People are very uncomfortable when the subject comes up and often get defensive about it," Kindness said.
The consequences of what everyone agrees is widespread sexual abuse in Utah are evident in every segment of society that touches these crimes.
Law enforcement is exhausted. Underfunded victim services programs are taxed. Parole and probation officers are overloaded. The sex offender treatment program at the state prison has such a high turnover in counselors because few people can tolerate the details of that job. When they leave, that often means inmates admitted to the program's few valuable spots get booted out of therapy altogether.
In addition, experts in this field are up against Utah state lawmakers jonesing to be tough on sex offenders — but who dig in their heels on the unpopular subject of paying to make sex offender treatment available to more inmates. Many conservatives believe giving money to treat sex offenders is seen as being soft on crime.

"It's a challenge they'll have to work at for the rest of their lives."Eric Hammond clinical director for Center for Family Development, which provides treatment for sex offenders

Today Utah has an unprecedented high makeup of inmates with sex crimes, said Tom Patterson, director of Utah's Department of Corrections.
"Those folks stay a very long time with us, so things are changing in terms of what kind of prisoners you have," Patterson said.
State Department of Corrections officials are hard-pressed to explain the unprecedented number of sex offenders in the system. Cliff Butter, director of the Bureau of Research and Planning for the corrections department, attributes the swelling populations to "culture change and ramping up penalties" in the past 20 years.
Since 1996, the number of felony sex offenders sent to prison each year increased by 42 percent.
Utah eliminated minimum mandatory sentences for sex offenses in 1996 in favor of indeterminate sentencing, which allows offenders to be considered for parole before serving the maximum term. Still, a first-degree felony sex offender will stay behind bars longer than another inmate with a non-sex-related, first-degree felony crime.
"As a single board member, I look at sex offenses in a much different light because of the trauma they have inflicted on their victim," said Jess Gallegos, a member of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for five years.
"Clearly, the mandatory minimum sentencing system in Utah was not protecting our children — even though the policy sounded tough," according to Mike Haddon, deputy administrator of the Department of Corrections.

"Deep inside she is filled with pain
She feels dirty, and full of shame.
innocence lost at a very young age
locked this child in a pain-filled cage ..."
— excerpt from "Letting Go," a poem written by a 15-year-old victim

Utah tends to keep sex offenders locked up longer than other criminals. More than a third of those incarcerated are first-degree felons serving up to life sentences.
The number of sex offenders imprisoned on first-degree felony convictions doubled after Utah changed its sentencing laws in 1996. In 1995, under minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines, 13 percent of felony sex offenders received the maximum sentence of life in prison. In 2006, 26 percent received life sentences.
But nearly all of them will eventually be released into the community where conventional thinking has them committing the same crimes again.
Few people understand the complex dynamics that play out in the minds and behaviors of sex offenders. Even the seasoned therapists, parole officers, detectives and corrections officials who have spent years with them don't fully comprehend sex offenders' unique sexual, psychological and behavioral characteristics.
The prison has more sex offenders than it can provide treatment for.
"The system in place is obviously not working," Steve Caverly, prison health programming administrator, told a corrections department focus group last year.
For that reason, he said, the prison began contracting out for therapists. "We need more treatment, more halfway houses and more beds for these offenders in the community," he said.
But prison resources for sex offender treatment have not kept pace with the growing inmate population. The budget has stayed at $700,000 annually since 1996.
Officials say the lack of funding stresses the treatment staff, slows down offender progress and affects the possibility of early parole. The result is a prison bulging with sex offenders.
Lawmakers this past session rejected a $1.2 million corrections department request for sex offender treatment, including two more full-time employees. About one-third of the money would have gone to contract for treatment for offenders on probation and parole.
"We continue to ask the Legislature year after year — and it's been unanswered for 10 years," Patterson said. "For 10 years we've been at the same rate. Now we skyrocket to nearly 30 percent (of inmates) and we have the same treatment dollars we had when we were at 15 or 20 percent."
And Patterson believes if more treatment was available inside the prison, the parole board would be more inclined to let inmates leave sooner and have an assurance they would not reoffend.
"We think a lot of that exorbitant time they are spending (in prison) is the reluctance of the board — and rightfully so — to release someone who hasn't had treatment," Patterson said.

"Of all criminals, sex offenders are the hardest ones to get to say, 'I did something bad,' to admit their crime. And you can't treat someone if they won't admit what they did, and you can't counsel someone who won't admit what they did."Greg Skordas a defense attorney, victim advocate and former head of the sex crimes division of the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office

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