UCASA, originally the Coalition of Advocates for Utah Survivors’ Empowerment (CAUSE), was established in 1996 with federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) funding as a statewide coordinating coalition of rape crisis providers and a response to a critical lack of communication and continuity among sexual violence service providers throughout the state.
In it’s first 4 years, UCASA facilitated the creation of 7 new rape and sexual assault programs in underserved rural communities, demonstrating an increase from 4 to 14 programs in 4 years. Also in it’s early years, UCASA and the Utah Department of Health launched Utah’s first media campaign on rape and sexual assault.
Our ability and willingness to collaborate with key agencies and organizations has directly contributed to the expanse and improvement of victim services throughout the state. The rape recovery programs in Utah have seen improvements in victim services because of the combined efforts of the Utah Department of Health and UCASA. This partnership has tripled the number of programs for survivors of sexual violence in Utah since 1996 (from four to twelve).
In 1998, UCASA implemented the standardized 40-hour rape crisis advocacy training program for rape crisis counselors and advocates around the state and is currently the only agency accredited by the Utah Department of Health to provide and certify rape crisis counselors and advocates. UCASA provides certification upon completion of the 40-hour rape crisis advocacy training that protects rape crisis counselors and advocates under the Confidential Communications Act (78-3c) of 1994. This law exists to “enhance and promote the mental, physical, and emotional recovery of victims of sexual assault and to protect the information given by victims to sexual assault counselors from being disclosed.”
In 1999, the Utah Department of Health, Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) and UCASA originated the idea of enlisting individuals, organizations, and agencies to participate in a statewide multi-disciplinary council addressing sexual violence. From 1999 to 2002, VIPP and UCASA surveyed the degree of stakeholder interest for constructing such a council. A steering committee was created in 2002 with representation from the Office of Crime Victim Reparations, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, the Rape Recovery Center of Salt Lake, UCASA and VIPP. This steering committee prioritized gaps in services and compiled a list of agencies and professionals who might initiate effective policy and act as a catalyst for structural change.
In 2003, the first executive committee of the USVC was formed with representation from the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, VIPP and UCASA. This executive committee worked stead-fast to facilitate the convergence and formalization of the new multi-disciplinary council.
The USVC brings a variety of resources, voices, and representatives together to implement systemic improvements through identification and prioritization of needs. These individuals conducted data collection and assessment of community needs throughout Utah to develop a meaningful five-year strategic plan. UCASA serves as the primary coordinating body for the Utah Sexual Violence Council, a multi-disciplinary, statewide advisory council that “promotes a climate where sexual violence is addressed as a priority issue that impacts all Utah communities.” The council’s vision is to change social norms and improve Utah’s understanding of the overwhelming significance of this public health, social service, and criminal justice problem. As the participation in this council has grown, so has the need for additional leadership, support, and administration. USVC serves as a statewide Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) that can effect, standardize, streamline, and improve victim services, establish protocols, and make recommendations. USVC can, potentially, be the most influential mechanism to improve the systems that serve victims and perpetrators of sexual violence in Utah.
Thanks to Governor Jon M. Huntman’s commitment to the issue of preventing rape and sexual violence, and, in an effort to address the needs of each community, he has worked with UCASA, the Utah Department of Health, and the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) to restructure the Council so that it can be the most influential mechanism to improve the systems that serve victims and perpetrators of sexual violence in Utah. In January 2006, the Council became a subcommittee of the CCJJ. Michele Christiansen, CCJJ Director, was appointed as Chair and Ned Searle, Director of the Governor’s Violence Against Women and Families Cabinet Council, serves as Vice-Chair.
In 2001, UCASA conducted a preliminary needs assessment with each of the fourteen college and university campuses in Utah to determine the availability of rape prevention programs. The results were disheartening. None of the programs acknowledged an active rape prevention program. Rarely did programs even identify local rape recovery/crisis programs as participants or allies to their campus rape prevention efforts. We therefore deduced that there are currently little or no efforts engaged in reducing sexual assault on campuses in Utah. This prompted UCASA’s campus collaboration efforts the creation of the more recently released document Collaborations for Creating a Comprehensive Approach to Sexual Violence on Campus.
The Utah Men Against Sexual Violence (UMASV) program engages men in the anti-sexual violence movement and is UCASA’s newest project. UMASV was founded by a group of dedicated men and women in Salt Lake City in 2001. Working directly with the local Rape Recovery Center, the Utah Department of Health, UCASA and a handful of community and student activists brought positive energy to the men’s responsibility to end rape. An initial press conference in October 2001, with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, received media and community attention. The success of this event broadened the initial project scope and vision for UMASV from that of one local education program to a statewide program that could respond to the undeniable gap between campus services, local rape crisis/recovery programs, and victims of rape.
Through a series of meetings, student activists, community members, and staff from the Rape Recovery Center, the Utah Department of Health, and UCASA, UMASV found a permanent home at UCASA. In 2003, through assistance from the Rape Education and Prevention Grant (RPEG) at the Utah Department of Health, UMASV is enabled to work across the state to advance primary prevention by exploring issues and highlight efforts to stop sexual violence before it starts, engage men in preventing sexual violence and build upon the strengths of the anti-sexual violence movement, public health and other prevention efforts to create social change.