Provo officer helps sexual assault victims, receives award

PROVO - A Provo Police Department employee will be receiving a major award this Friday when she's recognized for her work to help victims of sexual assault.

"It's a huge honor," said Kortney Hughes, Victim's Service Coordinator for Provo PD. "But it's not an award I've earned on my own."

Hughes credits her staff for helping to push for Federal grants to fund a handful of measures that will make preserving and testing sexual assault evidence. After attending a yearly training conference in 2015, Hughes learned that thousands of rape kits go untested across the country. In many cases, she says the kits were never tested because the crime was solved and the test was deemed an unnecessary and expensive move.

"We didn't know then what we know now," Hughes said. She explains that now DNA can link suspects to crimes committed in other states as well.

After attending the training, Hughes came back to the Provo Police Department and was instrumental in finding 300 untested rape kits and pushing them through for processing, including sending thirty of them out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for higher testing.

What Hughes may be most proud of, however, is her latest accomplishment. Hughes wrote a grant seeking nearly a half a million dollars in funding to allow rape victims to go to any emergency room in the county for testing after an assault. In the past, she said victims would have to go to a specific family clinic which wasn't open 24 hours.

"We have a team of nurses in training right now that will have a 45 minutes response time and perform that exam right there so the victims no longer have to wait to shower or eat or to heal,” a proud Hughes said.

"After reading several nominations, it became very clear that sh was very deserving of this award," beamed Turner Bitton, Executive Director for Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. UCASA will present awards to eight people in the state at a dinner later in the week. He says one in three Utah women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

He said Hughes received one of the most nomination totals of anyone in the state for her persistence and accomplishments.

"The overwhelming sentiment is that she took the victim advocacy program down at Provo Police Department to new heights.”