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REPARATION FUND HELPS VICTIM RECOVER PHYSICALLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY FROM ATTACK

SHARE REPARATION FUND HELPS VICTIM RECOVER PHYSICALLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY FROM ATTACK

The Monday morning after a man broke into her bedroom and tried to rape her, Grace Means opened the newspaper and read an account of the crime. She was quite angry because the newspaper, she thought, had the details all wrong.

"That's when my sister realized how messed up I was and that she needed to take me to the Rape Crisis Center," Means said.The crime had occurred two days before, in the dead of night somewhere between Friday and Saturday. Means was living in a little apartment building in the Avenues, where the back yard was secluded - "a perfect place for somebody who was trying to be sneaky." Fatefully, the flood lights had burned out the night before the crime.

Means was taking a full load of classes at the University of Utah as well as holding down a full-time job. It was the final day of summer quarter, and she was looking forward to a good night's sleep because she had just taken her last final. She went out for a drink or two with a friend and then came home and crawled into bed, exhausted.

Her 6-year-old son, who usually stayed on weekends, hadn't come this time. And her swamp cooler had recently broken, so she dropped into her much-needed and well-earned sleep with all the windows open, trying to cool off a bit.

The next thing she knew, a man was on top of her. "I was so exhausted it took me a while to wake up," she said. "Suddenly I realized I had to do something."

The next part is just a blur. Means somehow threw the would-be rapist off her, jerked the fan away from the window and jumped out, falling several feet to the ground. Her arm began to hurt quite badly. She completely came to her senses and called for help. A neighbor called the police, and the attacker fled, never to be found.

Two days later, Means had completely blocked these details out of her memory and unconsciously made up different ones, which is why she was upset about the newspaper account that had taken its information from police records.

That was a year ago. Thanks to hypnosis, Means now recalls the correct details of the incident. After a year of therapy and counseling, she speaks openly about the crime and no longer falls asleep in fear.

She attributes her recovery to a number of factors, but one of the most important is a Utah state government agency called the Office of Crime Victim Reparations. The office receives funding from convicted criminals who pay surcharges to the program on any fine levied by a judge. This includes $100 paid by every person convicted of a DUI.

The program began with nothing in 1987 but has grown considerably, paying crime victims nearly $1.5 million in fiscal year 1988-89. With the passage of time and increasing expenditures the office has become better known and able to serve a growing number of people. It is now processing nearly 90 claims a month, and director Dan Davis said the agency has the money to keep up with them.

For Means, the office gave her the financial backing to turn her life of fear into a renewed feeling of self-confidence. She was referred to the agency by the Rape Crisis Center, another place she praises highly, and received a couple of thousand dollars to help her.

The money was spent on emergency room bills, counseling services and moving expenses involved with finding a new apartment where Means could feel safe and begin rebuilding her life.

Means can't say enough about how the money helped heal the physical and psychological wounds inflicted in the attack.

"I didn't know what I was going to do at all. You feel very powerless. This at least gives you a sense of, `OK, I can do these things now I couldn't do before.' It was absolutely a godsend."

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(ADDITIONAL INFORMATION)

How to Qualiify

To qualify for the reparation program, crime victims must:

- Report the crime to the police within seven days

- File a claim with the office within one year of the crime (some exceptions)

- Cooperate fully with law enforcement officials and the reparation office

No awards are made for property loss or when other compensation is available.

Call 533-4020 or 1-800-621-7444 (outside Salt Lake area) for more information.