Bill aimed at campus reporting of sexual assault dies in committee

CAPITOL HILL – Advocates for sexual assault victims are claiming victory after a senate committee tabled a bill involving the reporting of sexual assaults on college campuses.

“The Utah Coalition is very happy today,” said Turner C. Bitton, Exec. Dir. Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

With time running out this legislative session, lawmakers tabled HB 254. The bill would have allowed a Utah college or university to report sexual assaults on campus to police – even if it’s against the victim’s wishes.

“It sends a message that your voices matter,” said Bitton.

Advocates say victims aren’t always ready to come forward and this bill would have perpetuated the problem.

“We get one shot to take our perpetrators down,” said Amy Jo Curtis, victim advocate.

The bill’s sponsor Representative Kim Coleman R-West Jordan, did not want to appear on camera for an interview, but sent the following statement to Fox 13:

“The bill to clarify schools may engage law enforcement when there is an articulable and significant risk to campus safety was not heard in committee this morning due to my being scheduled to present two bills at the same time. Opponents of the bill believe that a single complainant should have a veto over the school protecting other students, which is contrary to current law.  We need to ask ourselves if we intend to keep law enforcement on the sidelines no matter how dangerous a known perpetrator appears to be.  The practice of unqualified school officials handling these cases internally has resulted in a tragic number of victims who almost never find justice and a horrific number of sexual perpetrators who have found sanctuary on our college campuses."

“This bill is consistent with recommendations and cautions from both the 2014 letter to the White House and the recent response to our Legislature.”

BYU sophomore Olivia Whitely opposed the bill. “I've had a lot of conversations with friends who have been sexually assaulted," she said.

She says administrators have made strides to handle sexual assault cases on campus with care and confidentiality. The bill would have been a setback.

“I definitely think there's more we can do, especially on ensuring we have a campus culture that is friendly toward consent and encourages consent before anything else," Whitely said.

Opponents aren’t resting easy though. They say if the bill comes back next year, in any form, they’ll be ready to fight.

This piece first appeared on Fox 13. Click here to read the original article.

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Campus sex assault bill criticized by victims appears dead

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A campus sexual assault bill appears to be dead after advocates raised concerns it could involve police in investigations against victims' wishes.

A panel of Utah lawmakers said Monday they were tabling the idea with Republican sponsor Kim Coleman in another hearing during the busy final days of the legislative session.

Coleman has pointed to Utah cases where women reported assaults only to find university officials already knew about multiple allegations against the perpetrator and didn't stop them. She insists that should never happen.

Advocates, though, said even the possibility that college officials could give sexual assault allegations to police without victims' permission could keep them from reporting the assaults at all, undermining work being done to nudge up an anemic reporting rate.

The bill also gives people who report sexual assaults broad amnesty from school honor codes.

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Senate Judiciary Committee tables campus sexual assault bill

(KUTV) — The Senate Judiciary Committee decided to table H.B. 254, a controversial bill about reporting sexual assault on college campuses.

The bill advanced to the Utah House of Representatives in February 2018.

The bill was killed because the committee ran out of time to discuss the bill during their last meeting.

Any further discussion will have to be brought up after the bill is re-introduced during next year's legislative session.

2News will continue to update this story as new information becomes available.

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UVU student, sexual assault survivor encourages reaching out for help

By the time she graduates from Utah Valley University, it will be 10 years since Amanda Rawlings first enrolled. Give her a lot of points for tenacity.

“I had to take a couple years off here and there for my own mental health,” she said. That’s pretty understandable when you realize she was a victim of sexual assault when she was in high school.

“Being a survivor of that has completely changed my life,” she said. It didn’t happen immediately. “I refer to that year of my life as ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’,” she said. After high school, she attended the College of Eastern Utah where she struggled, then transferred to UVU in 2010.

“Coming to UVU was a turn-around point,” she said.

She turned her life around emotionally, but brought a couple of things with her. One was her husband, Tyrell, who she met at CEU and later married. The other was a love for emergency services.

“There was a first aid course in my high school,” she said. “I absolutely loved it. I was a drama kid in high school, into gory makeup they used for mock disasters. I loved being on both sides.

She not only applied the makeup to simulate injuries, but she also worked to simulate treatment for those injuries as well.

She credits Tyrell with bringing her out of her other life. When things got hard one time, they sat down together and found a therapist who connected her with nonprofit organizations. Seeking help is the advice she would offer to anyone who is struggling.

“Reach out, even though that can be the hardest step,” she said. “It could be any trauma-informed provider, like a rape crisis center such as Women and Children in Crisis or UCASA, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“It is a daily reaching out that you have to do. I feel that is why I have succeeded. I have that support system. It makes things easier because now I have that network. It is the hardest thing I have ever done but it is worth it.

Getting the help she needed allowed her to get back in school and pursue her goals.

“I love it,” she said about her education. “Emergency services is a passion of mine. All of my professors are actual emergency services specialists. They have worked in the field. They have so much experience and so many cool stories. I absolutely love it.”

Rawlings hopes to go into emergency medical services administration, which she defined as coordination of those services. She would like to work with a nonprofit.

“I want to do that because they have made such a huge impact on my life,” she said. “I want to be a part of that for somebody else. I want to actually be working for a nonprofit, not just volunteering.”

Part of her current volunteer experience is working with the rape crisis team for the Center for Women and Children in Crisis.

“Our team is on call to respond in the case of sexual assault,” she said. “We have a team including forensic nurses and victim advocates. I have been involved with them almost a year.”

She has had an internship with the Utah Pride Center, doing emergency protocols for the group’s festival.

“It is like merging my two passions together,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”

She has worked with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, in particular with its LGBTQ Council, to help ensure that the programs are inclusive. Another program she has assisted is the Encircle House, which helps provide resources for LGBT youth and families.

In addition to those pursuits, she works part time as a dispatcher for UVU Campus Police and full time for Northeastern Services, which provides group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities.

It’s not surprising that school has taken a bit more than the traditional four-year plan.

“I have been in and out of school, sometimes full time and sometimes part time,” she said. “It has kind of depended on where I was.”

She didn’t even know that the Women’s Success Center existed until about a year and a half ago, but now she has received a scholarship from the center. She said she was grateful for it and wouldn’t have been able to take her last two semesters without that financial aid.

Although her scholastic journey has been a long one, she is happy she has stayed with it, and even hopes to get a master’s degree in public administration in the future.

Women like Rawlings are encouraged to take advantage of the Women’s Success Center. The center offers women the support and resources they need to complete their degree and gain the confidence, opportunity and knowledge that come with a diploma. UVU is dedicated to providing higher education opportunities to all who seek them, especially to women. Those who wish information may visit

This piece first appeared in the Daily Herald. Click here to read the original article. 

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Don't allow Utah colleges to co-opt the decisions of sexual violence victims

You cannot do this to sexual assault survivors.

You cannot take away the one shred of control they still possess. You cannot co-opt their decisions.

You cannot pass House Bill 254.

Sponsored by Rep. Kim Coleman, a West Jordan Republican, HB 254 allows Utah colleges and universities to report allegations of sexual violence to police — even if it’s against the victim’s wishes.

Title IX already allows schools some discretion in reporting crimes without the consent of the victim. Coleman’s bill expands that authority, essentially arguing that the safety of a college campus matters more than the trauma of an individual.

Experts say she’s wrong. Turner C. Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, calls HB 254 “a dangerous backslide in our efforts to support sexual assault survivors.”

Why? Because it rips control of decision-making from the victim — a person who’s just endured a violent attack — and gives it to an institution.

Rape is about control. It’s about power. And now Coleman wants to tell sexual assault victims on Utah college campuses they don’t even have the power to decide if they’ll talk to police.

Many victims already hesitate to report sexual violence because they’re afraid schools cannot guarantee confidentiality. Pass HB 254 and you’ll ensure even fewer assault victims come forward; you won’t improve campus safety, you’ll damage it because crimes will go unreported.

And, at the same time, you’ll inflict unimaginable suffering on victims.

“This bill threatens the crucial relationship between survivors and victim advocates by taking the decision to move forward away from survivors,” Bitton said in a news release announcing UCASA’s opposition to HB 254. “In the #MeToo moment, it is unconscionable to be subverting the wishes of survivors.”

Everyone agrees we should protect Utah college students from sexual assault, but traumatizing victims isn’t an effective or compassionate approach.

We need to listen to the experts. And the experts say HB 254 is a bad idea.

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New first of its kind mobile app in Utah aims to help victims of sexual assault

SALT LAKE CITY – There’s a new mobile app available for survivors of sexual assault who are trying to heal.

The Utah Coalition against sexual assault launched the “You Are a Survivor” mobile app. It’s the first of its kind in Utah.

“We want them to control this process. We want them to have resources at their fingertips, and determine if they want to move forward,” said Turner Bitton, UCASA, executive director.

By accessing the app, survivors can learn how to file a report, understand trauma, legal options, and victim’s rights.

“Trauma impacts us all very differently and very similarly,” said Bitton.

The app is also a resource for families and loved ones of survivors.

“Research suggests upwards of 90 percent of survivors go to a secondary survivor or a friend or family member before they ever go to an informal support based on how that response happens,” said Bitton.

Rep. Angela Romero (D-SLC) hopes the app will help victims speak out and become survivors. Romero works closely with peer health educators on the Planned Parenthood Association Utah’s Teen Council.

“It's never the survivor's fault,” said Sofia Garza, Peer Health Educators Planned Parenthood Assoc. Utah's Teen Council.

For those who are afraid to talk to adults, the app can put them more at ease.

“With this new app, we can start to understand where people are coming from more and start creating change,” said Thalia Barnett, Peer Health Educators Planned Parenthood Assoc. Utah’s Teen Council.

“Teens are very comfortable with their phones. Having something where they know where to go, who to talk to, they know what can be done is really helpful,” said Garza.

The You Are Survivor app is free. It’s available on the Apple Store, and Google Play Store.

To download the app, click here.

This piece first appeared on Fox 13. Click here to read the original article.

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Coalition announces launch of mobile app for sexual assault survivors

(KUTV) -- The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced Friday the launch of a new mobile application called "You Are A Survivor."

Support is offered through the new app to sexual assault survivors and their families with information, resources, and links to service providers.

It is available free of charge on the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in our efforts to serve sexual assault survivors across the state," stated Turner C. Bitton, Coalition executive director, in a press release. "This mobile application is the culmination of decades of innovation aimed at reducing the isolation that many survivors feel after an assault.”

The release outlined the app features which include:

• Resources for Survivors: reporting options, understanding trauma, legal options, and the rights of victims.

• Resources for Friends and Family: understanding what is happening, supporting your loved one, reporting options, and responding to child sexual abuse.

Subsequent updates and versions of the You Are A Survivor mobile application are planned, the release said.

Users may download the app at

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Mobile Application For Sexual Assault Survivors Launches

Mobile Application For Sexual Assault Survivors Launches

YAS_App_Postcard.pngSalt Lake City, Utah, February 16, 2018– Today the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the launch of a new mobile application called You Are A Survivor. The new mobile application is designed to support sexual assault survivors and their families. After several months of testing and development, this all-mobile experience puts important resources and support in the hands of sexual assault survivors and their families. It is available free of charge on the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

The You Are A Survivor mobile application includes a variety of information, resources, and links to service providers.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in our efforts to serve sexual assault survivors across the state. This mobile application is the culmination of decades of innovation aimed at reducing the isolation that many survivors feel after an assault.” -Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director

The You Are A Survivor mobile application features:

  • Resources for Survivors: reporting options, understanding trauma, legal options, and the rights of victims.
  • Resources for Friends and Family: understanding what is happening, supporting your loved one, reporting options, and responding to child sexual abuse.

Subsequent updates and versions of the You Are A Survivor mobile application are planned. Additional resources and information are added regularly. Users can download the app at

# # #

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Turner Bitton at (801) 746-0404 Ext. 1 or email at [email protected]

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HB177: Utah Legislature looks to revise how victims of trauma treated

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah lawmakers are preparing a bill aimed at improving the way emotional trauma victims are treated in the criminal justice system.

If passed, the bill would standardize trauma-informed practices across government agencies.

It would devote resources to learning more about the ways victims are affected, as well as addressing some of the pressing problems already identified. The bill will also put in place “trauma-informed practices” for all levels of the justice system, including police officers, medical first responders and the legal courts.

Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said bettering the criminal justice system is a bipartisan issue, which is why the two have come together to sponsor HB177. As of Jan. 29, the bill has yet to be heard by a committee.

Escamilla and Ivory oversaw a panel discussion on the topic on Capitol Hill Jan. 16.

The panel was split into three different sections. Sexual assault survivors were at the forefront of the evening, telling stories about how the justice system had failed them. The panelists drew rapt attention from the crowd.

Jennifer Livsey and her daughter Rhiannon are all too aware that the justice system needs to reform the way it treats victims of trauma.

Rhiannon’s stepfather sexually abused her for over a decade. After he was arrested, a police officer told Jennifer to come and talk to him in his car. Jennifer remembers blacking in and out of the conversation as the officer told what her husband had been doing to her daughter.

Jennifer and Rhiannon said what happened in the years that followed is difficult to understand unless someone has gone through the same trauma, but they believe it is important to try.

The family experienced serious financial fallout, suicidal thoughts, shaking, nightmares, acute depression and severe mental anguish. Throughout the court process, they said they were forced to endure victim blaming and lies.

Jennifer remembers not being given any instruction for what they were supposed to do or any information about what was going on over the court process. What little information they received was impossible to retain because of the trauma the family experienced.

They assumed the perpetrator would serve a life sentence and did what they could to heal until Jennifer unexpectedly learned he would be released.

“If anybody is really wondering if there is really a hell, there is a hell,” Jennifer said. “It’s when you find out your offender is going to be released.”

Lobbyist Amy Coombs said Rhiannon and Jennifer’s experience is not just the exception;  it’s the norm. She surveyed victims about what they experienced throughout the criminal justice system.

“Victims felt like they weren’t being heard,” Coombs said.

Coombs said an immense burden is placed on victims when they are trying to navigate the justice system, but trauma doesn’t just happen in the very beginning.

It’s not just a one-time thing that needs to be addressed, Coombs said. It needs to be across the board.

Ivory said the legislation would be fundamental in helping victims who have trouble remembering and understanding information through the justice system.

Turner Bitton, executive director of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said survivors of sexual assault are more than their trauma.

“As a survivor, you matter and are entitled to your own healing process,” Bitton said.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, rape or domestic violence, there are resources available. Call 1-800-897-5465 to talk to the Utah Domestic Violence Line or 1-888-421-1100 to talk to the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line.

This piece first appeared in the BYU Universe. Click here to read the original article. 

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Sex trafficking will continue until underlying economic causes are identified, expert says at Utah symposium

The trafficking of young people for sex is something that goes mostly unspoken, yet it is prevalent worldwide and in Salt Lake City.

Without identifying the underlying causes, human trafficking will continue unabated, said Claude d’Estree at the 4th Annual Human Trafficking Symposium Friday at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law.

Traditionally, law enforcement has approached the phenomenon with prosecution, protection and prevention — the three Ps — said d’Estree of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

And often, the discussions focus on international trafficking.

But localities should be considering causes and conditions that lead to trafficking, d’Estree said, as well as cures for the prevailing attitudes and economics that underwrite it. He dubbed them the three Cs.

“The causes and conditions are often unique to a community and therefore the cures are different,” he said. “The cure for trafficking in Albania, India and the U.S. are completely different. We ought to be talking about this on a community level, rather than internationally.”

It is difficult to quantify the number of victims but estimates are in the tens of millions globally. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), victims of sex trafficking can be women or men, girls or boys, but the majority are women and girls.

They can be lured into sex trafficking by a promise of a good job in another country, according to the agency, or by a false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation, being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends and being kidnapped by traffickers.

d’Estree’s comments stand in contrast to those of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who told the symposium audience that a global approach is necessary.

“We can’t believe that if we only work here in Utah we will solve the problem,” he said, prior to d’Estree’s presentation. “By eradicating it worldwide, we will keep it from coming here.”

The attorney general noted that law enforcement sting operations, like the one in Cartagena, Colombia in 2014, in which he participated, would go a long way to crushing out child sex trafficking.

“How amazing, you can’t buy kids for sex any more in Cartagena,” he told the audience. “If that can happen in Cartagena, it can happen here.”

d’Estree, however, took exception with that approach, saying 20 years ago he would have agreed. But the prosecutorial approach, he said, has not worked, largely because it is not based on data analysis.

The vast majority of funding goes to rescue and rehabilitation work, d’Estree said, while money for research, data collection and analysis is scarce. The result, he explained, is that governments and international organizations make important policy decisions based on little analysis.

“The main mission of sound research methodology is to create reasonably policy making,” he said. “Research in human trafficking is difficult but possible.”

Nonetheless, prosecution of traffickers must continue, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, in an interview. But the complexities of human trafficking in the internet age make it much more difficult.

A pimp and his prostitutes can make appointments in Salt Lake City over the internet from another location, Gill explained, come in for a week and then disappear to their next stop along a multi-city route.

However, the district attorney said he does support a hybrid of the three Ps and three Cs.

“If we do not recognize the [underlying] economics of exploitation and sex trafficking, we cannot have a systemic response, only a reactive one,” he said. “Changing cultural attitudes that women aren’t chattel and providing them with education changes that economic system.”

Attitudes about sex trafficking are slowly changing to a recognition that sex workers are victims, rather than perpetrators, said Alana Kindness of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA).

Salt Lake City police are now reaching out to women on the street in an effort to keep them out of the criminal justice system, Kindness said. Nonetheless, she remains concerned that police arrest far more women than they do their male customers.

Trafficking is not just the realm of pimps and is more prevalent than people realize, she said. Economics plays a significant role in making young women and young men vulnerable to trafficking.

“The indicators are visible, but the act of exploitation takes place out of the public eye,” Kindness said. “Any time you see folks who are struggling and looking for a place to live, we know sex trafficking is happening.”

Sex trafficking is only part of the global slave trade. Four times as many people are trafficked for labor than for sex, according to many estimates. But labor trafficking gets far less funding.

“The 13-year-old Thai girl at a brothel tugs at our heart more than the 27-year-old man who works 18 hours a day picking oranges,” d’Estree said. “There is no silver bullet, no quick fix, no easy answers — the problem will only get worse during our lifetimes.”

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

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