Ogden sexual violence intervention workshop will create better bystanders

T-shirts with personal messages about sexual violence line the pavilion at Big Dee Sports Park where Your Community Connection held its annual Sexual Assault Awareness Walk on April 9, 2016, in Ogden.

OGDEN — Learn how to identify and step in during situations involving sexual violence at a free intervention workshop Tuesday in Ogden. 

Bystander Intervention Training will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at Weber State University’s downtown campus at 2314 Washington Blvd. The goal of bystander intervention education is to “encourage community members to take action in situations that signal risk for sexual violence, from countering verbal harassment, to finding safe ways to intervene if witnessing sexual assault,” according to a press release from Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 

Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault is co-hosting the workshop with Your Community ConnectionUtah Department of Health’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program and the American Democracy Project at WSU.

“Bystander strategies increase a person’s confidence in their ability to intervene, reduce victim blaming attitudes, and strengthen intervention skills so bystanders will put thought into action,” the press release says. 

Those strategies include being able to define and identify harm, violence and bystander intervention opportunities; learning skills and behaviors to prevent harm or violence; and understanding why it’s important to get involved.

For more information, visit www.ucasa.org/calendar. 

Reach digital producer Jessica Kokesh at 801-625-4229 or jkokesh@standard.net. You can also follow her on Twitter at @JessicaKokesh or Facebook.com/ByJessKokesh.

This piece originally appeared in the Standard Examiner. Click here to read the original article.


SlutWalk Planned Outside Marriott Library

Through a course being offered by the University of Utah, a number of students have spent the semester planning and organizing action against sexual assault. On Tuesday, April 4, they will host a “SlutWalk” on campus to bring awareness to the issue as it relates to women.

SlutWalks are part of a global movement of women’s activism that began after a Toronto Police officer said that women could prevent sexual assaults by “avoid[ing] dressing like sluts.” This remark led to widespread outrage and protest. SlutWalk participants are encouraged to dress however they deem fit, be it in underwear, a skimpy dress or a swimsuit.

Students in “Social Movements,” a sociology course taught by associate professor Wade Cole, have worked alongside community groups, including the Road Home and Women’s Resource Center, to plan a march that they hope will empower women and men to challenge stigmas about assault and rape culture.  

The message being sent by SlutWalk participants is that no matter what someone is wearing, sexual assault is not okay. The march, which will include remarks from those who have personal experience will assault, is aimed at making it easier for victims to talk about their traumas. 

Tuesday’s walk will take place at the Marriott Library Plaza at 12:30 p.m. The event will include a keynote speech from Turner Bitton, Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Prior to the march, there will be a poster-making session outside of the library at 11:30 a.m.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Utah Chronicle. Click here to read the original article.


Bystander intervention class scheduled at USU

A bystander intervention training class, empowering people to not stand idly by if they sense a situation that could lead to sexual assault or rape, is set for Utah State University on Thursday.

The class — supported by USU Students for Choice, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and other groups — will be from 6 to 9 p.m. March 30 in Old Main, Room 326, according to a news release from UCASA.

Turner Bitton, executive director of UCASA, talked about why his organization is sponsoring the class.

“The most important thing for us is making sure we create a culture that rewards intervention, that protects and prevents sexual violence,” Bitton said.

The class is not just for the USU campus community; everyone is welcome, organizers say.

“It’s for all community members to learn how to take action when you see something that might be a risk for sexual violence, what to say if there’s verbal harassment,” said Jasmine Despain, president of USU Students for Choice, a club on campus associated with Planned Parenthood that advocates safe sex. “With that, you can make it safer for everyone, use your voice to create action.”

Participants of the class will come away with several tools: “Be able to define and identify harm and violence; be able to define and identify bystander intervention opportunities; skills and behaviors to prevent harm or violence; understand and be able to articulate what harm and bystander intervention are and why it is important to get involved,” according to the UCASA statement.

Leading the class is Marty Liccardo, men’s engagement specialist with the Utah Department of Health, with a focus on the newly released Bystander Intervention Curriculum, “Upstanding: Stepping Up to Prevent Violence in Utah.”

“The reason we’re using (Liccardo) is this is actually a training the trainer training, where folks can be certified to then go on to be a facilitator of this training in their community,” Bitton said.

Bitton said the USU meeting will be the first such class supported by UCASA held at a higher education institution in Utah, but other classes have been held in conjunction with university programs. Salt Lake Community College and Weber State University will likely see bystander intervention courses with support from UCASA in the future.

“We are focused on getting young people involved, but the reason we locate these around universities is because we get a very diverse group of people,” Bitton said.

The bystander intervention class comes the same year USU launched the “I Will” campaign, an effort created by USU officials to get members of the university community to commit to bystander intervention.

That campaign follows another one USU officials organized in the fall, called, “Consent Is,” teaching students about what defines consensual sex.

Both campaigns are part of USU’s efforts to improve sexual violence prevention and response. USU was rocked last summer with allegations from multiple women — some of them students — who accused former Aggie linebacker Torrey Green. Some of the alleged victims criticized the way USU and law enforcement handled their complaints.

Green is due in First District Court in Logan this week, with hearing scheduled for Wednesday through Friday.

This piece originally appeared in the Herald Journal. Click here to read the original article.


Voters skeptical of concealed gun law as protection for sex-assault victims

When Utah state Rep. Karianne Lisonbee drafted her bill to lower the age for obtaining a concealed-weapon permit from 21 to 18, she had one group in mind: college-age women.

"They want to be able to defend themselves from rape on college campuses," she explained during the legislative session.

Now the bill has been signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert, but there's one hitch. A majority of Utah women don't actually support it.

While most registered voters in the state — 60 percent — opposed HB198, women disliked the measure by more than a two-to-one margin — 69 percent to 27 percent — according to a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

Among men, the split was a much closer 52 percent opposed to 47 percent in favor.

The survey among 605 registered Utah voters was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates March 15-21. It has a margin of error of 3.98 percentage points.

Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, doesn't give too much weight to those numbers, noting that of "the women that I've heard from, the vast majority of them support the bill." Additionally, she introduced the legislation after the issue was brought to her attention by three young women who wanted to be able to better protect themselves.

She has since heard from "many, many more" that back the initiative.

"A gun is a great equalizer," Lisonbee said.

She suggests that were a woman in a situation where she may potentially be attacked, having a concealed weapon could improve the outcome of the situation.

"Studies have shown that the more forceful the resistance, the less likely the completion of a rape will be," Lisonbee added.

Although Utah law allows Utahns as young as 18 to purchase, possess and openly carry guns, the state has previously banned concealed carry by anyone under age 21. Lisonbee said that has prevented most young women from carrying guns as a protection against sexual violence.

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault did not take a position on the measure this past session, but Executive Director Turner Bitton said he doesn't see it reducing the number of sexual assaults.

That argument "is presupposing that rapists target someone when they are at their best," Bitton said. "Anyone who works with victims knows that rapists are opportunistic."

Most rapes occur when a victim feels safe and secure, he added, and "that environment is not conducive to a riot shield and a shot gun." If a firearm provides a woman a sense of security, Bitton said he would never tell her not to carry it. But in the grand scheme of things, he said this will likely not prevent a significant number of assaults.

One of the respondents to the Tribune-Hinckley survey, Leslie Parkhurst, 58, of Fruit Heights, opposes expansion of the concealed-weapon permit. She denounced Lisonbee's reasoning, calling it "a very weak argument for having a gun."

Parkhurst fears that a would-be attacker could wrest a weapon from a woman during an assault and turn it against her. Instead, she proposes that college-age women carry pepper spray.

As a mother of five, Parkhurst said, she wouldn't have wanted any of her children, now grown, to have carried a gun at 18 years old.

"They're too young," she said. "That's beyond reasonable. It really makes me angry."

Heather Porter, 46, of West Jordan, also opposed the bill, saying "I really doubt that it's going to prevent any violence."

But Drew Ferwerda wishes he had a gun with him when he was nearly carjacked some 20 years ago. The 58-year-old from St. George had been in the vehicle with his two daughters when someone tried to break in. Luckily, he says, the family was able to drive away to shield themselves from the situation. He would've done things differently today, though.

Ferwerda doesn't always carry now, but sometimes takes a gun with him for protection — and thinks young women should, too.

"You're pretty much an adult at 18," he said.

Some survey respondents suggested that young individuals carrying a weapon on a college campus could prevent a mass shooting, while others indicated impulsiveness at that age could result in more deaths.

The bill takes effect May 9. Herbert did not issue a statement on signing the measure and was unavailable for comment Friday.

During the session, Lisonbee acknowledged the arguments against the bill, but ultimately pushed forward with it.

"It will not prevent every rape of a woman who is armed," she said at the time. "But it clearly results in a dramatic reduction of her risk and is therefore an option that all Utah women should have."

Reporter Alex Stuckey contributed to this report.

This piece originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. Click here to read the original article.


Bystander Intervention Training coming to USU to assist victims of sexual violence

Coming up on March 30th at Utah State University, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, along with CAPSA and USU’s SAAVI (Sexual Assault & Anti-Violence Information) office will sponsor what is known as Bystander Intervention Training. On KVNU’s For the People program, Coalition Executive Director Turner Bitton told host Jason Williams what this type of training is about.

“Bystander Intervention Training seeks to train folks to know how to intervene in those situations. Because it’s not always appropriate to jump in as a ‘knight in shining armor’ or even as an individual bystander to jump in and insert yourself into a situation,” he explained.

Bitton said the best way to help someone who has been victimized by sexual violence is to say the words “I am here for you”, “I believe you and I support you”, or "I will help you get the resources you need". He said even if you're not a full-time trained advocate, the words "I believe you" are life-changing.

Bitton said, unfortunately, upwards of 88% of sexual violence (whether it's rape, intimate partner rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment) in the state of Utah is not reported either to friends, family, law enforcement or advocates. He’s hoping the training can change that. Again, the training will be next Thursday at 6 p.m. in Room 236 in Old Main. You can get more information and RSVP at www.ucasa.org

This piece originally appeared in the Cache Valley Daily. Click here to read the original article.


Sexual Assault Bystander Training Held Next Week

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) is hosting a Bystander Intervention Training at the Utah State University campus. The coalition joined forces with Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse (CAPSA), and the Utah State University Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information (SAVVI) office to host the training.

UCASA executive director Turner Bitton says the training is to help empower bystanders to act.

"What bystander intervention does is it trains individuals to have the skills to both be aware of these situations and to intervene in a proactive and positive way," he said. “It’s about developing skill sets for individuals to be able to intervene in situations where they think sexual and domestic violence is going to occur.”

Bitton said finding safe and positive ways to intervene is key to preventing sexual violence.

“The reality is that intervening and being a bystander is a lot harder than just ‘yeah, if I saw someone taking someone who was too drunk home, I would stop that,'" he said. "I think all of us think that, but in terms of having the skills to do that without potentially causing an explosive situation is why we’re doing the training.”

The first training is next week, and additional trainings will be held to build skills and role play specific circumstances. Similar intervention trainings are being held across the state. The training is open to the public on Thursday, March 30, 2017 at 6 - 9p.m. at Old Main on Utah State University campus.

This piece originally appeared on upr.org. Click here to read the original article.


Testing every Utah rape kit is progress. But it needs to be fully funded

Rep. Angela Romero deserves her moment — she finally got Utah lawmakers to acknowledge the state’s sexual violence crisis.

When the Senate unanimously passed House Bill 200, requiring all rape kits to undergo testing at the state crime lab, the Salt Lake City Democrat described herself as “ecstatic.

"This is a victory for everyone when we talk about sex assault kits," Romero, the bill’s sponsor, said in a story carried by The Salt Lake Tribune. "The focus is usually on women, but men are also victims of sexual assault. It's important if someone goes through the [evidence-collecting] procedure, that they get the results."

But while it is a victory for everyone, it’s only a partial victory. Because the Legislature budgeted half the money needed for HB 200.

One in three Utah women will experience sexual violence during their lives, the state reports. Far too often, that’s rape — in a 2006 survey, 12 percent of Utah women said they’d experienced rape or attempted rape, the Utah Health Department reports.

And, as acknowledged by Romero, 2 percent of Utah men also reported the same experience.

As a result, Utah allowed a backlog of about 2,700 rape kits to accumulate through 2014. Some kits from Northern Utah dated back to 1999.

Lawmakers, briefly embarrassed by the scandal, established what became a pattern — they threw money at the crime lab, but not enough to test every rape kit.

In 2014 and 2015, the Legislature approved a total of nearly $3 million for rape kit testing. The Obama administration and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office chipped in another $1.4 million.

That allowed the crime lab to eliminate a third of its backlog. By the end of 2015, it still hadn’t touched 1,160 kits.

Jerry Henry, director of the state crime lab, said he expected the finish testing old kits by 2018. Now he faces the prospect of receiving a steady stream of new kits, thanks to HB 200.

HB 200 requires all state law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to the state crime lab for DNA testing within 30 days of their collection. How quickly the lab must test those kits remains to be decided

Analysts estimated the crime lab would need an extra $2.4 million annually to handle the increased testing. Lawmakers provided $1.2 million.

So, while they agree the state shouldn’t allow another backlog to accumulate, lawmakers won’t fully fund testing for the hundreds of new kits that will flood the crime lab.

They’re laying the groundwork for another backlog.

Henry said with $2.4 million, he could’ve hired 17 analysts and test 800 kits a year. Now, he needs a year to see what’s possible.

"It may not be at the ideal turn-around time that we'd like to get to," he told Jessica Miller, a reporter for The Tribune. "But we'll certainly be in a lot better [position] than we are now."

In 2011 alone, sexual violence drained nearly $5 billion from the state economy, according to a report from the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Compared to that, an additional $1.2 million in funding for the state crime lab is nothing. Lawmakers just didn’t want to spend the money.

Because they still don’t get it.

Utah’s rape rates exceeds national levels. It has increased 17.5 percent since 2013, the Utah Health Department reports.

But a state that does not quickly test DNA samples sends a message to rape victims: You’re not important.

Or in this case, you’re not worth the additional $1.2 million a year it would take to prevent a rape kit backlog.

If you live in fear you’ll be raped again by the same attacker, that’s your problem. And if he rapes someone else, too bad.

Because that $1.2 million is what matters. Not you.

Romero got the Legislature to acknowledge Utah’s sexual violence crisis, but she couldn’t convince them to aggressively address it. Not in 2017, anyway.

In 2018, Utah sexual assault victims and their families, friends and supporters need to press lawmakers to fully fund rape kit testing. When the Legislature finally coughs up that additional $1.2 million, then we can truly say it’s a victory for everyone.

This piece originally appeared in the Standard Examiner. Click here to read the original article.


Utah Lawmakers Look to Reform College Sex Assault Reporting

The Associated PressSALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers unanimously backed a bill on Thursday that would require college counselors to keep sexual abuse reports confidential, almost one year after Mormon-owned Brigham Young University faced a major backlash when it was revealed it shared assault victim information with its honor code office.

Lawmakers on a Senate law enforcement committee voted in favor of the proposal after a short discussion on how requiring confidentiality could help more victims feel comfortable reporting a sexual assault.

"This places the victim in control," said Julie Valentine, assistant nursing professor at BYU, during the meeting. "Rape takes away their control."

The proposal by Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, would also apply to student reports of domestic violence, sexual harassment and dating violence, and will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Turner Bitton, of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, has said that current confidentiality laws only cover victim advocates and counselors who work in law enforcement, community nonprofits or are covered by medical privacy laws.

But other counseling college students may receive on campus could come from advocates required to report assaults.

BYU announced in October that it was revising policies and would no longer investigate student victims who reported sex assaults for violations of the school's strict honor code, which bans drinking and premarital sex, among other things.

The change came after an internal review found that the Title IX office on campus, established through a federal gender discrimination law known as Title IX that bars sexual harassment or a hostile education environment, sometimes shared victims' names and details of assaults with the honor-code office after investigations were completed.

At Utah State University in Logan, university officials last fall changed their confidentiality and amnesty policies to notify students which college officials provide confidential help and which college staff — including faculty — are required to report sex assaults.

The school's changes were part of its response to an investigation by The Salt Lake Tribune that reported numerous women had reported assault against the same football player but found little progress made their cases.

Earlier this week, lawmakers rejected a bill that would have allowed colleges to send some reports of sex assault to law enforcement without victims' consent.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Kim Coleman appeared dead after a tight vote in the House of Representatives amid concern that it would take control out of the hands of the victims and result in fewer students coming forward.

This piece originally appeared on usnews.com. Click here to read the original article.


How you can help stop child abuse in Washington County

Plenty of people have been in a situation where they've witnessed or suspected a child is being abused. Sometimes it's easily identifiable. Other times it's not.

Is what I just saw actually child abuse? What if I'm wrong and I report something false? How do I know for sure? What if this child is acting strangely for another reason?

The Washington County Children's Justice Center opened 249 investigations of child abuse in 2016 alone. That means 249 children were interviewed by a forensic interview specialist based on suspected or disclosed abuse they had experienced. At least 249 families — most likely more, since WCCJC Director Shelly Teeples says child abuse is grossly under-reported — had their family dynamics challenged by neglect, child sex abuse, child physical abuse or a combination of any child abuse in 2016.

 

In fact, the Division of Child and Family Services reported 408 total victims of child abuse in Washington County for 2016.

"I have seen cases of horrific child sex abuse and physical abuse come out of homes of highly-esteemed people in the community," Teeples said. "You can't sensationalize child abuse. It happens everywhere, across every socioeconomic background. It has no boundaries."

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If knowledge is power, then ignorance is STDs

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Last week, Utah state legislators rejected a plan for comprehensive sexual education, insisting on maintaining an abstinence-based curriculum. In response, the pornography website xHamster started rerouting its visitors from Utah to their sexual education series called “The Box.” In a popup on the site, a message reads, “Utahns consume the most porn per capita of any state, but have some of the lowest levels of sexual education. We’re here to change that.”

This week, the University Journal Editorial Board tackled sexual education, discussing options for curricula in Utah alongside the effects of abstinence-only education. The general consensus was that sex ed should be comprehensive, as abstinence-only education is largely ineffective and detrimental. 

To begin, one member emphasized that abstinence-only education perpetuates silence and shame on the topic of sex, even though many are obsessed with it. Young people still have sex in Utah — they just don’t talk about it.

In 2010, 36 percent of all Utah pregnancies were unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Unplanned pregnancy can occur with protected sex, but it’s more likely that a majority of these pregnancies were the result of unprotected sex. Furthermore, states with abstinence-only education (that includes Utah) have higher rates of STDs, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Utah’s excessive porn consumption demonstrates an obsession with sex despite lack of education on it. As teenagers aren’t getting comprehensive sex ed, they’re likely seeking answers elsewhere — and if that elsewhere is porn, the answers are rarely accurate. As several Board members pointed out, porn tends to propagate serious misconceptions about sex, such as those related to body image or sexual expectations.

A lack of education spreads further misconceptions, especially concerning consent. For example, in a Utah case where a young girl was raped by an acquaintance, a primary reason for the defendant’s acquittal was that the jury did not believe the victim could be raped by someone she knew, according to Utah County prosecutor Lauren Hunt for the Salt Lake Tribune. This is truly incredible, considering 82 percent of rape victims were assaulted by someone they knew, according to the Department of Justice. Perhaps proper education on consent could prevent this kind of ignorance-based injustice.

Furthermore, the Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault described experiences in which victims he worked with couldn’t label their sexual assault as assault or even say the word “vagina.” This illustrates the concept of shame and refusal to talk about sex, even when it is necessary to do so.

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