'Me Too' sexual violence awareness campaign making an impact in Utah

(KUTV) Social media continues to blow up with the “Me Too” campaign, spreading awareness about sexual harassment and assault.

All of this movement on social media is now having an effect here in Utah. More people are talking about their experiences with sexual violence, and they're reaching out to places that can help.

Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said his organization has seen a spike in people asking for help and seeking resources.

“This morning I had 11 emails,” said Bitton. “Folks are reaching out not just about sexual violence but also about sexual harassment.”

It's the outgrowth of the explosive story involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. As his accusers have come forward, so have people across the world to share their own stories.

The coalition is now helping those sexual assault survivors find services and helping others prevent violence in the first place.

“One of the emails that was in my inbox this morning was, I want to do a training on sexual harassment, I want to do a training about professionalism in the workplace,” said Bitton.

All this is helping bring some positivity out of the pain of this difficult issue.

“We’ve really seen not only businesses but survivors, folks from around the state reaching out, wanting to engage in this issue,” Bitton said. “It’s very, very gratifying.”

To find resources for sexual assault survivors and for more information, visit UCASA.org/resources.

Sexual assault victims can also call the 24/7 Sexual Violence Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100.

This piece originally appeared on KUTV 2news. Click here to read the original article. 

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#MeToo: Utah women take to social media to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault

Amanda Rock took to Twitter late Monday morning and typed the same two words that many women and men across the country posted online as they shared their stories of sexual harassment or assault: “Me too.”

The Salt Lake City woman added: “I’m still so mad at myself for not saying anything.”

There was some hesitation, she said, in adding her voice to the impromptu social media movement that was sparked Sunday by actress Alyssa Milano, who posted on Twitter with an idea that if all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a social media status, it would give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

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But Rock said Monday that she wanted to share her own story to support other women who have posted.

After posting #metoo on Twitter, Rock told The Tribune that she was sexually harassed by a man on a TRAX train who rubbed himself against her while making small talk. Shocked, she didn’t know what to do — she never asked him to stop, she never called the cops.

“I just let him,” she said. “ … It’s only recently that it occurred to me that it’s him, not me, that should have acted differently. There’s no way that I’m going to be mad at myself anymore. Hearing and reading other women’s stories, I realized that I would never think that they didn’t react properly, so I shouldn’t be mad at myself anymore.”

Rock was one of thousands who posted their #metoo experience in response to Milano’s call to action. Within hours of the actress’s Sunday tweet, “Me too” began appearing in droves, and quickly started trending on Twitter and Facebook. By Monday morning, the hashtag #metoo was the top trending phrase on Twitter in Salt Lake City.

On social media, some Utahns wrote simply, “Me too.” Others wrote #metoo, but added: “I don’t ever want to talk about it.”

Still others shared their specific stories of sexual harassment or assault. One woman was 18. Another was assaulted as a child. Another woman recounted how just two days ago, two men pulled up next to her car in downtown Salt Lake City and yelled vulgarities at her.

There was that time in junior high. High school. At her job. In a basement. On the street.

And the response from many? You are not alone. It happened to me, too.

The actress’s tweet-turned-social-media-movement has done what it intended: it showed how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are.

One Utah woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Tribune on Monday that she was groped under her shirt by a high-power board member years ago. She shared her #metoo story to show the public how prevalent sexual assault and harassment is.

“Those who perpetrate sexual assault are our friends, our neighbors, our family members,” she said. “There is a harasser or assaulter behind every #metoo you read.”

Toni Smith, of Salt Lake City, wrote on Twitter that she has been harassed and molested by men, and was also raped by women. She told The Tribune she wasn’t surprised with the outpouring of posts from other women — in fact, she thought there would be more.

The reason she posted her own story?

“This is me too,” she said. “This is not just some random person you’ve never heard of. It becomes very personal, and when things become personal, people care about them.”

Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA), said Monday that the movement has been empowering to survivors of sexual abuse.

“A lot of times,” Bitton said, “just disclosing that you have experienced violence, that can be a healing moment in and of itself.”

UCASA has heard from service providers across the state who have said they’ve seen an increase in a request for services Monday — likely because of the massive social media campaign.

There’s been an increase in need at the Center for Women and Children in Crisis as well, according to Christine Cagano, who is the sexual assault services coordinator. That increase began about a week ago, she said, as news of decades of sexual abuse allegations emerged against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

“It’s a trigger for everyone,” she said. “Even if you confronted it years ago, just the story in and of itself, just rape and sexual assault in itself, is a trigger. No matter how well you’re doing.”

Cagano said that while the social media movement is powerful, people should still be sensitive to those who don’t want to share their experiences publicly.

“Kudos to those who do, and kudos to those who don’t,” she said. “We don’t want to shame the survivors who don’t want to talk about it publicly.”

Bitton said people often think of sexual assault survivors as broken, sad or hurt. But in working with those survivors, he’s found they are strong and resilient.

“To see them leading the charge out there with this campaign, empowering survivors, and saying this happened to me too — it’s very inspirational,” he said.

Anyone in need of resources can call Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100 or visit UCASA’s website for more information about services in your area.

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

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What exactly is consent?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - A former football standout accused of rape and forcible sodomy pleaded guilty to reduced charges Thursday.

Osa Masina was scheduled to go on trial next week, but instead he pleaded guilty to three counts of Class A misdemeanors of sexual battery.

This case is once again bringing the topic of consent to the forefront of the conversation about sexual assault and rape. Advocates say many are still confused on exactly what it means. They say it is a constant conversation.

"As a society we should change our viewpoint to no means no to yes means yes,” said Turner Bitton, Executive Director of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Turner Bitton says it's been hard getting over the biases when it comes to consent. As Executive Director of UCASA, he's says there have been issues getting people to understand what consent is, and realizing people can change their mind at any time.

"As a society we have to change the way we look at consent. Consent is a process it's not a one off,” said Bitton.

In the recent Osa Masina case the attorney representing the family argued the victim sent text messages to another friend saying she wanted to be intimate with Masina.

While technology and social media is leaving a record of people's intent, advocates say that is in no way shape or form consent.

"That's not consent because A it didn't happen in the moment. There are a number of factors that going into someone being able to give consent. The first and foremost is that they be sober and aware of their ability to give consent."

Sexual assault survivors like Lorcan Murphy have been trying to spread the word on consent by telling their stories. One of his biggest messages is that people have to talk and know for sure it's something that's wanted.

"I think that it's important for people to kind of be aware that sometimes people are going to say no and sometimes no isn't always going to be explicitly spelled out,” said Lorcan Murphy, sexual assault survivor.

Advocates say consent is not just a conversation for college students, but is something that should be discussed at all ages and is even for those who are already in a relationship.

This piece originally appeared in Good4Utah. Click here to read the original article. 

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New youth council combating sexual violence

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Young people ages 18-25 experience some of the highest victimization rates of sexual violence, according to Turner Bitton. 

That’s why he helped appoint a council of young people to combat the issue.

“We love to have young people get engaged in our work,” Bitton said. “Young people really will be and are the leaders of the future.”

Bitton is the executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a non-profit organization that “engages individuals and organizations in local and statewide collaborations to strengthen the effectiveness of sexual violence education, prevention and response in Utah,” according to its website. 

He also helped develop the new Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council, comprised of 12 community leaders and victims’ advocates ages 18-30 who support and contribute to the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Bitton said the Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council was created in response to experiences the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault had while doing prevention work.

“There’s generally not very good representation of young people in the higher levels of organization and strategic planning for coalition work, and so we decided that it was very important to us to have young people sit at the table,” Bitton said.

But the Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council will do more than simply support the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Bitton said it will hold its own meetings, host its own events, creating its own charter and deciding what activities it wants to participate in.

Some of those activities will be organizing events on college campuses and receiving significant anti-discrimination training, he added.

“So by engaging now … we can drive down victimization rates and we can engage the next generation of political leaders and business leaders and others in the work of sexual violence prevention and intervention,” he said.

BYU senior and Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council member Tinesha Zandamela said the council’s diversity will bring new perspectives to their work. 

UCASA

Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council member Tinesha Zandamela is a BYU senior double majoring in sociology and French. She said both men and women can be educated about sexual violence prevention. (Utah Council Against Sexual Assault)

“We have different people who are so incredible, and so I think just the fact that we’re offering a different background as a team (will make the biggest impact),” Zandamela said.

Zandamela, who is double majoring in sociology and French, said sexual assault issues persist for a number of reasons from misinformation to apathy. Being educated can help people better understand different facets of the issue, like how women of color are disproportionately affected by sexual assault, Zandamela said.

However, Zandamela added, combating the issue isn’t only up to women.

“I think (both) women and men can be educated,” she said. “They can teach their friends about the things that they know and they can continually be involved in their communities.”

UCASA

Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council member Tyler Clancy is a BYU sophomore studying family life. He’s also one of only two men on the council. (Utah Council Against Sexual Assault)

Tyler Clancy, another BYU student on the Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council, said sexual violence is a men’s issue because everyone is related to women, from mothers to sisters to daughters.

“So it is in everyone’s best interest to have a world, have a country (and) have a community with a safe environment for women,” Clancy said.

Clancy is a sophomore from South Carolina studying family life. He’s also one of only two men on the council, which is why his goals include involving more men in sexual assault victim advocacy. 

“I think a lot of guys, when they start talking about it … realize how important it is,” Clancy said.

Clancy said policy makers and people in general often focus on resolving problems later in life, rather than stopping the issues before they start in younger groups of people. That’s why the council is focusing on solving problems among younger generations, he said.

Clancy also said young people have a passion for making the world a better place.

“I think this council is… going to be a vehicle to channel all that passion that we have in the great young people of Utah to combat an issue that is a real problem and is something that we really can fix,” he said.

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

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USU student appointed to sexual assault prevention youth group

When Rachael Fresh arrived at Utah State University, she didn’t even know sexual assault was a problem on campus.

But in 2014, when she was on the studentbody president’s cabinet, Fresh recalled how then-USU Student Association President Doug Fiefia brought in “some really shocking statistics” on colleges campuses throughout the U.S.

“You never talk about it when you’re growing up in Utah,” Fresh said. “We had a couple of people come forward and talk about their own experiences. I told Doug I wanted to get on this initiative and help the people of Utah State.”

The initiative Fresh was referring to was “It’s On Us,” an effort created by the Obama administration to stop sexual violence on campus.

Fresh has done so much more on the issue of sexual violence on campus since that time, and it has caught the attention of others.

She was recently named a member of the Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council, under the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

According to a UCASA news release, the council will bring “valuable youth perspectives” to UCASA’s efforts and work with “communities and schools across the state demonstrating that young people are the key to preventing and eliminating sexual violence in our communities.”

Fresh talked about sexual violence and what she hopes comes out of her one-year appointment to the council.

Q: UCASA is not just focused on preventing sexual violence on college and university campuses, it’s about preventing sexual assault and rape anywhere, right?

A: Yes, definitely. Their focus is on the whole state — from prevention to understanding to intervention, they have 14 different programs that focus on that. This Young Emerging Leaders Council is just to get younger voices in there. My knowledge is what’s going on at Utah State and what’s going on on college campuses. That’s why I believe I’m on the council, is to have that voice.

Q: What can the youth voice do to prevent sexual violence?

A: I think it can be tremendously effective because I believe a solution we have to the problems in this world is education. If we start people off young, having knowledge about sexual assault and how to prevent it or what to do when it happens to you … the better it’s going to be in the long run.

So UCASA is doing an amazing job at helping people, but this (council) is just to bring an element of, “Here are these younger people who have this passion, who have an understanding, to come and give their voice.”

Q: How is the council going to go about helping prevent sexual assault in our community?

A: As a council we meet once a month, and right now we’re just developing the council — we’re creating a charter, we’re creating a structure of how we’re going to work in the future.

Then, we’re all choosing programs we’re really interested in. Personally, I want to go into high school education, and so I’m very passionate about teaching high schoolers before they get to college that this is a problem so they’re not coming here like I was.

Q: Talk about that a little more — how you plan to educate high school students.

A: One of my passions is mental health, and I was able to go to two high schools in Cache Valley. (Sexual assault) is kind of the same thing (as mental health) — there’s a large stigma; it’s an awkward topic; no high school wants to talk about it. But I found that when you sat down with students and you tell them personal stories and you give them statistics, they rise above.

I truly believe if you come forward and say, “Hey guys, you’re walking into college; that’s a huge adjustment. You’re going to be facing stuff that’s hard, and here’s one thing you might face: (sexual assault).” When they hear that and get that shock, and you tell them ways they can help, I believe that those kids are going to take that and run with it. They’re going to make it better in college because they’re going to come away prepared.

Q: Have you ever experienced sexual assault or rape?

A: No, I haven’t. For me, sometimes I feel like, “Oh, I shouldn’t be the one signing up for this, because I don’t know what it feels like,” but I also think being an advocate along with them is more of what we need. Yes, we need everyone who has suffered from that to stand up. … But if everyone in the state of Utah was signing up and advocating for it, I think we’d go a lot farther.

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

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UCASA hosts screening of ‘The Voiceless,’ on male survivors of sexual violence

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA), along with a consortium of partners and agencies, will host a screening and panel discussion of the internationally recognized documentary film “The Voiceless.” This powerful straight to camera film features the stories of five male survivors of sexual violence and panelists will discuss culture, masculinity and other important concepts.

“Every victim deserves justice and we cannot forget that men also experience sexual violence. Male survivors of sexual violence often
face unique barriers due to a variety of factors. Our goal with this screening is to shine a light on these factors and to create a dialogue about the needs of male survivors in general.”

– Turner C. Bitton, UCASA Executive Director

The event is co-hosted by a group of partner agencies including the Men’s Anti-violence Network of Utah, Talk to a Survivor, the Thayne Center at Salt Lake Community College, Pacific Island Knowledge to Action Resources, South Valley Services, Rape Recovery Center and Red Mesa Counseling Center.

 

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Billboard campaign aims to label magazine as 'explicit content'

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - You may have seen a billboard posted in multiple locations throughout the Salt Lake Valley that reads “Cosmopolitan Magazine Contains Pornography.” The billboard is part of a campaign to label the magazine as “Explicit Content.” 

Victoria Hearst is an Heiress to the Hearst Corporation, and the creator of the campaign. Hearst corporation owns Cosmopolitan Magazine. Victoria Hearst says she started the campaign, Cosmo Hurts Kids, to get the magazine out of the hands of children. Hearst says when her grandfather originally bought the magazine in 1906 that it was “a classy women’s magazine.” 

Hearst explained that the goal of the campaign is to get it placed on higher shelves and blocked with blinders. 

In early 2017 Hearst enlisted the help of Senator Todd Weiler and an activist against the sexual exploitation of children, Jennifer Brown. The two agree that the magazine is not suitable for children. 

“I've been in dentists offices and doctors offices, and I don't know that anyone knows how bad it's gotten in the magazine, so I applaud her for getting that message out,” explains Senator Weiler. 

However, not everyone agrees that the magazine should be labeled that way. Some people believe the magazine may even have educational value. 

Turner Bitton, the Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Violence says, “The thing about for example Cosmo...that's traditionally where we would see youth get this information. The things about an organization like that is that they're held to journalistic standards, generally, and there's liability there. No media, no magazine, wants to be responsible for a child being hurt, a child utilizing their information to experience violence or to get into trouble, so there's a little bit of accountability built into the system there.”

Bitton went on to explain that children do, however, need to be learning about healthy relationships as well. He said ideally, youth will get this information from trained professionals and their parents. 

ABC 4 reached out to teens at Salt Lake City’s Planned Parenthood Teen Council to see what they thought about the campaign, and they had mixed responses. 

Grace Ritter, a student from Salt Lake City, says “I think that sex columns in magazines are definitely not how we want to be receiving or teaching young people about sex...It also doesn't provide a lot of integral information that should be there, especially  things about safety and how to keep yourself safe.” 

Another student from Salt Lake City had a different opinion. “I don't think that it's porn. I think it's advice. I think it's to help people in their lives. Sex is a part of your life, and it's not something that you should shy away from,” says Sophia Gener. 

But Victoria Hearst disagrees, and feels compelled by a higher power to keep this magazine out of the hands of those under 18. “I'm not gonna let the devil get away with it, I'm not gonna let the devil sit there and argue that there's another side to pornography,” explains Hearst. 

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

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Victims of rape, advocates worry about new guidelines for college campuses

Salt Lake City — (KUTV) Jasmine Despain, 24, who was raped while she was in college, is deeply worried about what the new guidelines for campus rape investigations will mean for victims.

“I think it’s devastating for students,” she said.

The guidelines, imposed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, replace guidelines put in place during the Obama administration.

The Obama guidelines pushed colleges and universities to focus on the well-being of the victim in conducting Title IX investigations.

Victim advocates say the new guidelines put the burden of proof back on victims and give perpetrators the benefit of the doubt.

“It’s an abandoning of moral leadership,” said Turner Bitton.

Bitton, Executive Director of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) said Title IX investigations are not to be treated like criminal cases, they are civil rights investigations to determine if assault interfered with a student’s right to an education.

Bitton said DeVos suggested too many students are falsely accused of rape investigations are often unfair to them.

Link to DeVos tweet

“Evidence shows so-called false reports are very low – almost non-existent,” he said.

Bitton worries that advances made in protecting victim rights on college campuses will one day be abandoned if DeVos turns the guidelines into mandates – which he expects will happen someday.

He expects Utah colleges and universities to continue to make improvements in their treatment of victims despite the guidelines but he feels DeVos’ actions will have a chilling effect on victims who might think twice about reporting.

Despain said when she was raped at Utah State University, she did not receive support from the school. She was left to get through her pain and the criminal trial of her perpetrator on her own.

Her grades suffered and she lost money moving from campus housing to an off-campus apartment.

She fears the new guidelines will discourage schools from doing more to help victims.

Link to "What Rape Culture means" tweet

“How can we know they are going to honor victims and be there for people like me?” she said.

At the University of Utah, Darrah Jones, Sexual Assault Support Advocate, said as long as the university is not told to make changes, they will continue helping victims who need emotional support or help understanding their options as far as reporting to police or campus administrators.

“We are going to continue to provide as much holistic support as possible to make sure survivors have access to healing,” Jones said.

The University of Utah issued this statement regarding the new guidelines:

We do not anticipate that today's announcement by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights regarding sexual violence on college campuses will significantly impact the existing policies at the University of Utah. Our policies aim to both protect victims and provide due process to those involved. However, we will review the guidelines and evaluate whether any aspects of our policies could benefit from changes in the coming year, in consultation with our faculty, staff and students. The safety and well-being of our students remains our top priority. We will continue to provide victim advocate and counseling services, protective measures, bystander intervention trainings and other awareness programs.

The original article, tweets and video were published on kutv.com. Click here to read the original article.

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UCASA ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS TO YOUNG EMERGING LEADERS ADVISORY COUNCIL

For immediate release

Salt Lake City, UT, September 25, 2017– Today the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the appointment of twelve young people to the newly formed Young Emerging Leaders Advisory Council (YELAC). The YELAC is a group of community leaders recognized for their dedication to youth leadership, service- learning, diversity, and above all, the elimination of sexual violence in our community. The YELAC brings valuable youth perspectives to our work and is a source of strength for our organization. YELAC works in communities and schools across the state demonstrating that young people are the key to preventing and eliminating sexual violence in our communities.

Young people from across the state were selected based on an application and nomination period. Each will serve a one-year term which can be renewed each year. The goal of the YELAC is to ensure that young people have a voice in the affairs of UCASA.

“Young people are a crucial stakeholder in our efforts to eliminate sexual violence in communities across the state. Each of the incredible young people selected to serve on YELAC has demonstrated their leadership and vision for a state where sexual violence does not exist.” –Turner C. Bitton – Executive Director

YELAC membership consists of monthly meetings, training, and participation in the strategic vision and planning for UCASA. The council is designed to ensure that young people always have a voice in the highest levels of UCASA’s leadership.

Click here and you will find a list of the appointed members. Additional information can be found at UCASA.org/yelac.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Turner Bitton at (801) 746-0404 Ext. 1 or email at [email protected]. Mr. Bitton will facilitate communication with any of the members of YELAC. 

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FILM SCREENING TO EXPLORE THE EXPERIENCES OF MALE SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

For Immediate Release

Salt Lake City, UT, September 20, 2017Today the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) announced that they, along with a consortium of partners and agencies, will host a screening of the internationally recognized film The Voiceless. This powerful straight to camera film features the stories of five male survivors of sexual violence discusses culture, masculinity, and other important concepts. The film was produced by Vanessa McNeal and PLVTO Pros of Des Moines.

Every victim deserves justice and we cannot forget that men also experience sexual violence. Male survivors of sexual violence often face unique barriers due to a variety of factors. Our goal with this screening is to shine a light on these factors and to create a dialogue about the needs of male survivors in general.

Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director

The event will be hosted by a group of partner agencies including the Men’s Anti-violence Network of Utah, Talk to a Survivor, the Thayne Center at Salt Lake Community College, Pacific Island Knowledge to Action Resources, South Valley Services, Rape Recovery Center, and Red Mesa Counseling Center. UCASA released these additional details regarding the event:

WHAT: The Voiceless Screening
WHEN: September 27, 2017 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Salt Lake Community College South City Campus, Multipurpose Room 1575 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
REGISTRATION: www.ucasa.org/voiceless_slcc 

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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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