Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault announces campus initiatives

For immediate release

Utah January 27, 2017– The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault today announced two new initiatives aimed at improving response to sexual violence on Utah’s higher education campuses. The initiatives are designed to engage campus communities, students, and faculty to address sexual violence.

The first initiative is the 2016 College Safety survey. This survey will be used to research attitudes and experiences on college campuses in Utah as part of our effort to provide confidential and privileged advocacy services for survivors of sexual assault, rape, domestic or dating violence, and stalking.


“We understand that each survivor of sexual violence has a unique experience depending on the campus that they report violence. We are interested in learning about those experiences and working with campuses to improve services for sexual assault survivors on those campuses.” –Turner C. Bitton, UCASA Executive Director

The second initiative is the Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council. This advisory council exists within UCASA’s larger membership and assists UCASA with program development. The mission of the Young Emerging Leaders Council is to:

  • To connect with the diverse young people in their communities and to represent and communicate their interests, needs, and aspirations to UCASA.
  • To develop the leadership skills of YELAC members and support the leadership development of other young people.
  • To champion the work of UCASA in their professional and personal circles.
  • To create mission-based opportunities for other young UCASA members.


 “Young people are the key to eliminating sexual violence in our community. We believe fundamentally that we can eliminate sexual violence in one generation by engaging the next generation of leaders in our efforts.” - Turner C. Bitton, UCASA Executive Director

# # #

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Turner C. Bitton at (801) 564-3860 or email at [email protected].

Add your reaction Share

Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault voices support for BYU Title IX hirings

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault has voiced its support for Brigham Young University’s new Title IX director, deputy Title IX coordinator and victim advocate.

The decision comes on the heels of a letter from sexual assault survivors that was sent to BYU’s President Kevin Worthen following the announcement that Tiffany Turley will be the university’s new Title IX coordinator and Lisa Leavitt will be a victim advocate.

Posted Friday, the UCASA statement states that Leavitt, a member of the Utah County Sexual Assault Response Team, and Turley, who has been trained through UCASA’s 40 Hour Rape Advocate Certificate course, have shown a commitment to aiding sexual assault survivors.

“We understand that victim advocacy at any institution does not exist in a vacuum and in many ways the success of any advocacy program depends on the level of engagement that the local community has committed,” the statement reads. “We will support Ms. Turley and Ms. Leavitt as they begin their new positions.”

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault addresses student and alumni concerns about victim advocacy position appointments

For immediate release

Provo, Utah, January 19, 2017– The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) today released a statement released a statement regarding the selection of the Title IX Coordinator, the Deputy Title Ix Coordinator and Victim Advocate at Brigham Young University. Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director of UCASA released the following statement on the newly appointed positions.

“Both Ms. Leavitt and Ms. Turley have demonstrated a commitment to serving survivors of sexual assault. Ms. Leavitt has been an active participant in the Utah County Sexual Assault Response Team and has been a source of support for survivors of sexual assault. Ms. Turley was trained through UCASA's 40 Hour Rape Advocacy Certificate course and is a dedicated and passionate victim advocate. We understand that victim advocacy at any institution does not exist in a vacuum and in many ways the success of any advocacy program depends on the level of engagement that the local community has committed. We will support Ms. Turley and Ms. Leavitt as they begin their new positions.”

Adding further, he stated:

“We take the experience of every survivor extremely seriously.  We share the desire to improve policies on all college campuses to improve their response to sexual violence. We are committed to supporting the needs and interests of survivors across the state, on and off campus. We believe that there still remains critical work to be done. This work includes the official adoption of a defined policy providing safety and amnesty from honor code violations. We acknowledge that significant progress  has been made at the University. Many of the concerns raised in the letter to President Worthen have been or are in the process of being improved.”

On the response letter from President Worthen, Bitton added:

“We understand that survivors of sexual violence at Brigham Young University have historically not experienced the level of support that they deserved. UCASA’s role has always been to work with institutions, survivors, and other stakeholders to improve the response to sexual violence. We endeavor to believe in  the best of intentions from all parties. We applaud the concrete actions that Brigham Young University has made toward improving the response to sexual violence on campus.”

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Turner C. Bitton at (801) 564-3860 or email at [email protected].

Add your reaction Share

Leader of Utah group targeting sexual assault says it isn’t a women’s issue

Ask Turner Bitton why he cares so much about helping sexual-assault survivors and he struggles to answer — how could someone not?

"I don't need a mom, I don't need a sister, I don't need to know a single woman or man my entire life who's been a survivor to care about this issue," he said. "We need to teach young men and boys that they are leaders on this issue and that we can completely end sexual violence by individual action."

Bitton, 26, plans to do just that as the new executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA).

Read more
Add your reaction Share

BYU appoints new Title IX coordinator, victim advocate

Tiffany Turley’s main goal as Brigham Young University’s new Title IX coordinator is simple: create an environment where students feel able to report sexual assaults.

“The safety and well-being of students is definitely my primary concern,” said Turley, 35, who previously served as the university’s Women’s Services and Resources manager.

On Friday, BYU announced that Turley would oversee the school’s Title IX office, tasked with implementing the federal law that requires universities to swiftly respond to and resolve complaints of sexual violence. Turley replaces Sarah Westerberg, who will continue to serve as associate dean of students.

The change is one portion of the 23 recommendations put forth by an internal advisory council, which BYU officials announced in October they plan to follow. Last year, the council completed a study of the university’s sexual assault response.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

The Price of Intimacy

"I just wish people understood what it's like to be me," Russell Greer says. When the 25-year-old rides Trax in downtown Salt Lake City, he occasionally hears a passenger comment on his facial paralysis. He has Mobius syndrome, which means he can't move his eyes from side to side or close his lips.

"What's wrong with his face?" someone asks. He has to rein in his urge to lash out. "I'm not that kind of a person," he says. "That's why I like paying for sex. It helps calm me." He says he suffers from anxiety and depression, and has found intercourse to be healing. "It's really a shame the only legal place is Nevada."

His only choice—other than taking Amtrak or a plane to Nevada, where prostitution is legal in some counties—is to illegally pay for sex in Salt Lake City.

In a February 2016 City Weekly profile, Greer discussed his inability to get dates, and the comfort he sought from sex workers. After Nevada became prohibitively expensive—and he alleges one brothel worker robbed him of $4,000—he turned to Utah. That opened him up to all sorts of problems—from potential STI exposure, to what he calls fraud by women who misrepresent themselves in online ads, or theft and violent assault by them or their male companions. Then there's the threat of arrest and prosecution for soliciting.

So he decided to open a brothel, which Utah law does not permit. On Oct. 18, 2016, Greer—a paralegal recently in the spotlight for unsuccessfully suing singer Taylor Swift—filed a lawsuit against city, county and state officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, for violating his constitutional rights by upholding laws that make sex work illegal. State officials at the various governmental agencies declined to comment on pending litigation.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

December Executive Director's letter

As 2016 comes to an end I’ve had a once in a lifetime opportunity to reflect on the lessons that the past twenty years of UCASA’s work have meant to the people and communities we serve. January 1st, 2017 brings with it more than the new year, it is also the beginning of the twenty first year of UCASA’s life-changing work. For the past twenty years, we have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with advocates, families, and communities alike to eliminate sexual violence from our communities. We have made remarkable progress and we know that the next chapter of our history is about to be written.

It is an honor to be serving as the Executive Director as, along with so many dedicated individuals who ensure that our work continues. As citizens and advocates, we work together to achieve UCASA’s mission of empowering communities throughout Utah to prevent sexual assault and serve survivors by providing comprehensive training, advocacy, public awareness and coordinated sexual assault services. I have the pleasure of working alongside an incredible number of world class professionals and I am especially privileged to have an incredibly dedicated staff.

As Executive Director at UCASA, my responsibilities include building a strong foundation for a vibrant and relevant coalition based on strong fiscal practices; working with an active board of directors to responsibly plan and execute UCASA’s direction; collaborating with other coalitions across the country to learn best practices and build a team with a passion to achieve the ultimate result of ending sexual violence in Utah. 

I want to provide some reassurance to those of you out there who are concerned about the social, financial, and political developments taking place in our communities. During difficult times such as these, you can depend on us. We will always be here; our work continues and we remain as optimistic about a future free from sexual violence as we have ever been. In fact, our work is growing and our organization is expanding to meet the needs of our communities.

Our future is bright and the next chapter of UCASA’s work will be as exciting, productive and meaningful as the past twenty years have been. As we look to 2017 we will continue to improve our coalition and build on the strong foundation of the previous chapter of our history. I’m very pleased to announce several endeavors that UCASA will be undertaking in the next year and beyond. Here is just a sampling of the incredible new endeavors that I am pleased to share with you:

  • We are launching a new professional development program that will complement our existing 40-hour Rape Advocacy Training to focus on more than the sexual violence field. Through our new professional development program, you’ll be able to earn certificates such as Sexual Violence 101 and Human Trafficking 101.
  • As part of our commitment to serving all areas of Utah we’re updating our website and launching an entirely new online experience. Our new website will feature members-only content that can be accessed remotely and will allow for members in geographically dispersed areas to experience the same content that our members across the Wasatch Front enjoy. In addition, our new website will feature translation options so that language will no longer be a barrier to the great services and programs we offer.
  • Public policy has always been an important piece of the work that we do and we’re taking that commitment to the next level. We’re taking a leap as the first coalition in the nation to establish a 501c4 organization to further our legislative efforts. This new organization will be governed by our Board of Directors and staffed by our existing staff and it will allow us to further our goals of creating and implementing public policies and laws designed to assist survivors.

This is only a small taste of what is to come from UCASA. Our work is powered by our membership program. Join us on the next step of our journey by becoming a member of our newly formed Vanguard Network. By making a monthly membership payment to UCASA you are joining the local movement to end sexual violence. Our members include community leaders with a wide range of interests, backgrounds, and experience working to combat sexual violence-related issues.

I invite you to visit UCASA’s new website often. It will be constantly updated with important information regarding our work. 

Thank you for your support,

Turner C. Bitton
Executive Director

Add your reaction Share

Consent: Yes Means Yes

The reality of sexual assault is that it’s not what most people think.

This mother sent her daughter off to the University of Utah with all the tools she knew to give her, but in the middle of her freshman year that young woman says she was raped by a friend. They've asked us to hide their identity, but this family is sharing their story, hoping they can keep another student from going through the same painful experience.

When you talk to this mother you can feel her heartbreak.

"She can never get her safety back or feel completely safe," the mother said.

All she ever wanted was to protect her child but she says her daughter's trust was stolen from her. To protect her identity, we’re calling this young woman Jane.

"It started with when I went to an event with my sorority," Jane said.

She said after she came home from that event she got a text from a friend. He was upset about a break-up so she told him he could come over and talk. When he got there Jane said he was drunk and aggressive. Within minutes she said he was pressuring her to have sex.  Something she says eventually happened against her will.

"I got a phone call about 3:30 a-m from my daughter, and she said mommy help me," Jane’s mom said.

Jane said she called her mom just 9 minutes after the boy left her dorm room.

"It was kind of, I know I kind of just broke down. Like I freaked out, because I told him that I didn't want to have sex with him. I called my mom and she drove down from Layton to the university to come take me to the emergency room," Jane said.

Good4 Utah got copies of Jane’s complaint to the school and university police. A rape kit was done and police were called. Jane and her mom say those few hours were a whirlwind.

"I think she was so traumatized she didn't know exactly what to do and I honestly had no idea what to do either at that point," Jane’s mom said.

According to documents, the schools title nine office began an investigation, so did police.

"I think I was still in shock for months afterwards," Jane explained.

The university found enough cause to remove the young man from campus but the district attorney didn't have enough evidence to prosecute a criminal case. We talked to Blake Nakamura in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office to find out why.

“The biggest issue that comes up almost in every single one at some point is whether it was done consensually or not," Nakamura said.

According to the report by the university, Jane told the boy “no.”

"This person admitted that she said no multiple times." Jane’s mom said.

But the boy also claimed, Jane’s body language said something different.

“In the course of these investigations, it's a combination often of the verbal and nonverbal that becomes very problematic," Nakamura said

Jane said she hasn't been the same since the incident.

So if a situation like this is not prosecutable, what can we do? Experts say it comes down to knowing personal boundaries before it goes too far.

"So not waiting for someone to say no or push you away but asking ahead of time, is this ok? Do you enjoy this? Are you comfortable with this?" said Alana Kindness with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA.)

"The guys should just go for it and it was up to the girls to put the brakes on," Kindness said.

And if we don't talk to our kids about consent, she said what they see online, on TV and in movies could end up being their teacher.

"It gives that very harmful message that girls don't really mean what they're saying," Kindness said.

But how do you begin to have a conversation with your kids about healthy relationships?

Kindness said, “I think there's so many ways we can do that it's never going to just be one conversation.”

And it doesn't have to be that topic many parents dread.

"There are very fundamental conversations and then I think you build from there," Kindness explained.

The talks should start when your child is still very young. Psychotherapist, Lisa McCrohan agrees. She's broken it down into 5 things you can start doing with your child today.

First, teach by example. Begin asking your child for consent.

“It’s everyone's responsibility to be proactive to be aware of the impact our behavior is having on somebody else,” Kindness said.

It's as simple as changing the statement "give me a hug" into a question... "Can I give you a hug?" let them make the decision.

Second, teach them that their "no" matters. If they tell you no, or that they are uncomfortable with something honor their feelings.

Third, let your child know, in any circumstance, their "yes" can become a "no" if they're no longer comfortable with what's going on.

“It’s reminding them that they are in charge of their bodies,” Kindness said.

From a game of tag to a conversation, when a child becomes uncomfortable, Kindness says, they should express that immediately.

If they do become uncomfortable with something, move to the fourth step, seek to understand why. This lets a child know their voice and their feelings matter.

"Just really empowering them and strengthening them and giving them self confidence," Kindness said.

Fifth and final step, keep their regard top of mind. Children want you to listen to them and respect them. When you do, they'll learn that behavior and use it in their own life experiences.

All 5 steps Kindness says, you can start right now. Jane's mom says she hopes parents will.

"What I hope is that parents understand, when they send their children to school they need to make sure they are completely prepared,” she said.

Not just with pepper spray and self defense but knowledge and the confidence to stand their ground.

The big take away from experts is this; teach your child, boy or girl, their body matters, their boundaries matter, they matter. Make sure your child understands how their actions affect others. Make sure they can recognize when someone is uncomfortable, and if that happens address it.

This piece originally appeared on good4utah.com. Click here to read the original article.

Add your reaction Share

New Executive Director Announcement


October 31, 2016

Contact: Turner C. Bitton  Turner_C_Bitton_Headshot.jpg

Cell: 801-564-3860

Email: [email protected]

Salt Lake City, October 31, 2016– The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault is pleased to announce Turner C. Bitton as its new executive director. Mr. Bitton brings a diverse background of nonprofit and for-profit experience to the Coalition, most recently as Membership Coordinator at Equality Utah, Utah’s LGBTQ advocacy organization. Bitton begins his new position at the Coalition today and will begin full responsibilities immediately.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, I am delighted to welcome Turner C. Bitton as the new executive director,” said Board Chair Laurie Hofmann. “His wealth of experience and demonstrated leadership in service to our community will help the Coalition move forward in its mission to strengthen the effectiveness of sexual violence education, prevention and response in Utah.”

As executive director of the Coalition, Bitton will oversee an organization that works to build awareness of the pervasive issue of sexual assault in our communities and to foster a society where sexual violence is no longer tolerated.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Possible rape kit-test law brings comments from both sides of the issue

(KUTV) A push to legislate mandatory processing of all rape kits has people speaking out on both sides.

Victims advocacy groups say all the evidence that can be gathered, should be gathered and used to help get convictions. Members of law enforcement say there are times when this isn’t necessary and could only further jam up a system already dealing with a significant backlog.

“Every individual that comes forward and reports a crime should be heard, should be listened to and should be believed and all the evidence in the case be processed – a thorough investigation,” said Alana Kindness, the executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She said Friday that is their goal and the goal of all victims advocacy groups.

Read more
Add your reaction Share