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Detective Trains Police Departments to Handle Sexual Assault Survivors with Respect

Former detective Justin Boardman is changing the way police treat rape survivors.

“It’s our society. And they’re our victims. They’re our survivors,” he stated. “And — we haven’t been doing the right thing.”

Boardman was a police officer for the 15 years in West Valley City, Utah before transferring to the special crimes unit, where he handled sexual assault cases. Now he trains officers across the globe to better handle these types of cases.

“I started doing and making all sorts of crazy arrests and investigations but they were all in kid crimes, so sexual assault against children,” he explained. “But the adult ones, I was just getting rid of just because the DA’s office wouldn’t file them. And a lot of the rape myths out there that we all have been cooked in by society. And so I was closing out cases like crazy.”

It wasn’t until Boardman attended a training about trauma caused by rape that he realized there was a better way to investigate these cases.

“I realized that I had been doing things incorrectly,” he said. “There’s a large amount of guilt. I had realized that in the past I had misinterpreted the way that victims came across.”

Boardman used what he learned to transform the way his department handled sexual assault by training officers to have trauma-informed responses to survivors. Within one year, the number of cases his unit sent to prosecutors doubled — and the number of conviction tripled.
Utah’s state legislature has since adopted reforms requiring new officers be trained in recognizing symptoms of brain trauma in survivors.