Anti-Sexual Assault Advocate Says DeVos Intentions Are Crystal Clear

The director of a Utah coalition says Thursday's announcement by United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is an insult to victims of sexual assault.

“Secretary DeVos’ comments, while they were fairly ambiguous, the message was crystal clear,” says Turner Bitton, executive director for the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a nonprofit organization that provides education and resources to various groups around the state.

Bitton and his group work as advocates for survivors of sexual violence.

DeVos announced she is pushing for an end to the Obama-era rules for Title IX, the law requiring universities to investigate claims of sexual misconduct, as well as ensure a safe and equal environment for all students.is responding to a possible loss of federal support for programs that protect victims of sexual assault. 

He expects the announcement is a precursor to ending sexual assault procedural and processing guidance from the federal government. The education secretary says she is reviewing guidelines some consider to be unfair toward the accused. Included in the law is the “dear colleague” letter that outlines how schools should handle sexual assault allegations.

“I don’t necessarily believe that institutions will quit acting in the best interest of sexual violence survivors,” Bitton said. “Fortunately for the state of Utah, many of our colleges and institutions work well with the community programs in their areas. They’re doing a lot of programming, doing a lot of work to help provide information on sexual violence.”

Although he sees an increase in awareness and advocacy at the local level Bitton says the lack of support from the federal government poses a problem for survivors of sexual violence, especially at universities.

“Without the ‘dear colleague’ letter, really what we risk doing is going back to a day when someone who experienced sexual violence was on their own,’’ he said.

DeVos is not revealing specifics about how she plans to approach Title IX. Bitton says until she does he is being proactive in encouraging universities and colleges to support policies that will still put sexual assault survivors first.

This piece originally appeared on Utah Public Radio. Click here to read the original article and listen to the recording of the broadcast.

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Advocates say DeVos speech bad for sexual assault victims on college campuses

SALT LAKE CITY — Local advocates for survivors of sexual assault say college students will be less likely to report attacks in the wake of an address by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday.

Speaking at George Mason University School of Law in Fairfax, Virginia, DeVos vowed to replace an Obama administration system of campus assault enforcement that she says is broken for both survivors of sexual assault and those wrongly accused, and "fails all students."

Too often the conversation has been framed as "a contest between men and women," or the rights of sexual misconduct survivors and the due process rights of accused students, she said.

"The reality is, however, a different picture. There are men and women, boys and girls, who are survivors, and there are men and women, boys and girls, who are wrongfully accused," DeVos said.

"I've met them personally. I've heard their stories. And the rights of one person can never be paramount to the rights of another."

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who has successfully carried a number of bills on various aspects of sexual assault through the Utah Legislature in recent years, described DeVos' address as "troubling."

"I'm afraid that victims won't report because they'll feel like people won't believe them," Romero said. "There's a reason why we've been heading toward this victim-centric approach to where we give the power back to the victim of sexual assault, and I think we're taking steps back.

"At the end of the day, rape is rape and sexual assault is sexual assault. As we know, only 2 to 10 percent are false accusations," she said.

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault said in a prepared statement that DeVos' announcement "tips the scales of justice away from survivors of sexual violence."

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UCASA Condemns Backward Movement by Education Department

For Immediate Release

Salt Lake City, Utah, September 7, 2017– This morning, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced changes to the Title IX rule process while criticizing the so-called Dear Colleague letter. While she did not announce an end to the guidance established by the Dear Colleague letter, the message was clear.

Today’s announcement by Education Secretary Devos shows a willful disregard for the needs, concerns, and experiences of survivors of sexual violence. The announcement follows a series of statements, actions, and policy changes that tip the scales of justice away from survivors of sexual violence. We condemn, any effort to undermine the robust process of accountability established by the Dear Colleague letter.” – Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault committed to working with the state legislature, local partners, and all stakeholders in the state to ensure that institutions continue to adhere to the spirit and letter of the Dear Colleague letter.

Our Coalition has a long history of working with leaders in our great state to ensure that survivors of sexual violence get the justice that they deserve. We will work with our valued colleagues at institutions throughout the state to ensure that they have the resources, support, and encouragement to continue to adhere to the spirit and letter of the Dear Colleague letter.’ - Turner C. Bitton, Executive Director

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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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UCASA AND UVU GROUPS CO-HOST BYSTANDER INTERVENTION TRAINING

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, along with the Utah Department of Health and the Center for Women and Children in Crisis presented resources, information and scenarios for bystander intervention on Tuesday at the Fulton Library Lecture Hall.

Student for Choice UVU, Spectrum UVU and the UVU Women’s Success Center co-hosted the event.

The training presented by Martin Liccardo, the men’s engagement specialist with the Violence and Injury Prevention program at the state health department, focused on how to intervene safely, especially in situations involving harassment and assault.

Liccardo began the training by discussing ‘diffusion of responsibility’ theory, the tendency toward inaction when others are present. Liccardo also took time to discuss cultural conditions such as rape culture, stigma, biases/ judgmental attitudes, all of which allow for and promote harassment and sexual assault.

According to Liccardo, a cultural shift needs to occur in the way people view and talk about gender, sex and sexuality. He stressed that people need to be more deliberate in talking about sexual activity and gaining consent.

“We are more comfortable having sex than talking about it,” Liccardo said.

In addition to trying to prevent physical harassment and assault, Liccardo repeatedly referenced people feeling safe, and certain culturally accepted behavior and attitudes can often take that away from people.

Liccardo continued by providing guidelines and tools to aid in bystander intervention and then presented scenarios for practice. He expressed that intervening is difficult and complex, but that taking action will become easier with the correct tools, knowledge and experience.

The training attracted students from BYU and Salt Lake Community College as well as those from UVU.

Tyler Clancy, a sophomore in family services at BYU, attended the training to take action and to assume responsibility for the world around him. The training is an opportunity for men like Clancy to address what was described by Liccardo as a “men’s violence issue”.

Clancy has been involved with athletics for much of his life and he believes that the “machismo” that can develop in all-male sports teams contributes to the occurrence of harassment and assault.

“I think that athletics, both in the world around me as I see in the news – some of these big cases like the Stanford swimmer guy, the Duke lacrosse team—and then in my own life I’ve seen habits or mentality towards women that I don’t think is necessarily evil, but I think that it could lead to bad things,” Clancy said. “I think we need to change that.”

This article originally appeared in the UVU Review. Click here to read the original article.

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It’s a new semester. Take steps to protect yourself from sexual violence.

Students started arriving at college for fall classes about a week before Labor Day.

About that same time, news broke that the federal government is investigating five of Utah’s 10 largest colleges and universities for the way they handled allegations of sexual violence.

Weber State University is not on the list. And perhaps that’s for a reason — the [email protected] program.

Under Title IX, schools must quickly investigate reports of sexual violence and harassment. Additionally, if requested, they must provide counseling, tutoring and relocation.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating complaints against Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, Westminster College and Dixie State University.

The Dixie State investigation stemmed from its handling of a sexual harassment report. At the other four schools, the complaints stemmed from sexual violence cases.

College campuses can be dangerous places, especially for newcomers. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, reports that more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur between August and November.

And according to RAINN, college students face the highest risk of sexual violence during the early months of their first and second semesters.

The risk is great. Nationally, RAINN reports, 23.1 percent of undergraduate women experience sexual assault. So do 5.4 percent of undergraduate men.

Weber State addresses sexual violence through its [email protected] initiative, which requires all students to participate in an online sexual violence prevention and awareness course.

As part of [email protected], the WSU Women’s Center also provides a number of services for assault survivors, including counseling referrals, medical treatment and legal advocacy.

But the school didn’t stop there — it built on [email protected] to add a sexual violence prevention program for LGBT students.

For good reason. According to RAINN, 21 percent of the nation’s transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming college students have been sexually assaulted. For non-TGQN females, it’s 18 percent. For non-TGQN males, the number is 4 percent.

When the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault honored [email protected] as its 2017 Partner of the Year, UCASA Executive Director Turner Bitton singled out the program’s LGBT initiatives.

"We see really high rates of violence committed against LGBT folks, so having specific programming for LGBT individuals is a huge step forward for the community," he told Anna Burleson, a reporter for the Standard-Examiner.

It’s a new semester. Take steps to protect yourself from sexual violence.

At Weber State, that means learning about [email protected]

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

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September Executive Director's Message

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This month is recognized nationally as National Suicide Prevention Month, National Recovery Month, and National Hispanic Heritage Month and we are proud to be participating by focusing on the unique ways that sexual violence and suicide are connected.

We have created a new working group to study the issue of suicide and support our expressed desire to this serious public health issue. We’re working overtime to ensure that all of our programs include suicide prevention as a critical component of our work. We’re committed to ensuring that no survivor ever feels that they are alone. We’re committed to building a community for all people working to end sexual violence in Utah.

In keeping with our theme of building a community for those working to end sexual violence in Utah, we’re growing our membership program, the Vanguard Network. This network is designed for anyone who is interested in supporting our statewide efforts to end sexual violence. If you like the work we’re doing, please consider joining the Vanguard Network by clicking here.

Our members are the backbone of our efforts and power the work that we’re doing in communities across the state. Here are the things that our members are making possible this month:

  • We’re looking for volunteers to join us in tabling at Hooper Tomato Days, Ogden Hispanic Festival, Provo Pride Festival, Logan Pride Festival, and other community events. If you’re interested email our Outreach Specialist Myla Anderson at [email protected].
     
  • We’ve launched several new webinars on topics ranging for sexual violence research to the impact of trauma on advocates. Head over to the UCASA Training Center to learn more.
  • September 7-9th, we’re hosting the a 44-hour SANE certification training for new SANE nurses in Provo. Read more.
  • On September 27th, we’re partnering with several community partners to host a screening of the internationally recognized documentary The Voiceless. The Voiceless features the stories of five male survivors of sexual violence. This powerful straight to camera film discusses culture, masculinity, and other important concepts. Read more.

This is only a small portion of what we are doing and we hope that you’ll join us and get involved. 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 contribution 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 in our community.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to schedule one of our events in your community. We are a statewide organization and love to support the work of our community partners across the state.

Thank you,
Turner C. Bitton
Executive Director
[email protected]
(801) 746-0404 Ext. 1

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UCASA Seeks Proposals for Bookkeeping Services

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Request for Proposals

For Bookkeeping Services

For the period: October 2017- December 2018

Inquiries and proposals should be directed to:

Name: Turner C. Bitton
Title: Executive Director
Entity: Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Address: 284 West 400 North Suite Salt Lake City, Utah 84103
Phone: 801-746-0404 Ext. 1
Email: [email protected]

 

 The full Request for Proposals is available by clicking this link.

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Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault Statement on Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville

For immediate release

During the past 24 hours, we have watched with horror and disgust the events transpiring in Charlottesville. We condemn in the strongest terms the disgraceful and pathetic displays of hatred and bigotry. What has transpired in Virginia is reprehensive and deserving of the utmost condemnation. Violence, of any kind, has no place in our society and the violence perpetrated by members of the so-called “alt-right” is nothing but Nazism by a different name. 

Advocates for survivors of sexual violence know all too well that sexual violence stems from the same hatred being spouted in Charlottesville. Sexual violence is fundamentally a crime of power and control. By dehumanizing others and sowing division, this movement of hate seeks to create opportunities for the perpetration of violence against others. While disgusting, this tactic is used all too often against people of color and other marginalized people.

From the founding of our country, we have aspired to create a more perfect union through the idea that all men and women are created equal. What has transpired in Charlottesville is nothing more than an attack on the sacred principles that are the moral pillars of our country. 

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UCASA TO HOST BYSTANDER INTERVENTION TRAINING AT UVU

Student groups and community partners will come together to present training designed to prevent sexual violence. 

For immediate release

Orem, Utah, August 8, 2017A consortium of student and community organizations will present a bystander intervention skill-building workshop at Utah Valley University on August 29th, 2017. The workshop will focus on skill-building scenarios and will encourage attendees to practice facilitating educational activities such as bystander intervention pieces of training.

Recognized as a critical component of preventing sexual violence - bystander Intervention training involves developing the awareness, skills, and courage needed to intervene in a situation when another individual is in need of help. Bystander intervention allows individuals to send powerful messages about what is acceptable and expected behavior in our community.

The Workshop will be facilitated by Marty Liccardo (Men's Engagement Specialist with the Utah Department of Health with a focus on the newly released curriculum "Upstanding: Stepping Up to Prevent Violence in Utah.”

“Bystander intervention skills are a critical component of sexual violence prevention efforts in our community. We are pleased to present this life changing training for students and community members alike.” –Turner C. Bitton

The event is free and open to the public. Anyone who is interested in bystander intervention training is encouraged to attend because this training will be highly informative. Additional details for the training can be found at UCASA.org/UVU_bystander.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Turner C. Bitton at (801) 746-0404 Ext. 1 or email at [email protected]. UCASA will facilitate opportunities to connect with student leaders, community partners, and others who members of the media may be interested in speaking with. 

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August Executive Director's Message

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This month is recognized as National Back-to-School month across the country and UCASA is participating by focusing on sexual violence on college campuses. We’re recognizing the important work of our partners on campuses across the state through our new #FactualFriday campaign. This campaign will share positive facts about the accomplishments of our community partners and efforts currently underway to eliminate sexual violence in Utah. Each Friday we'll post a series of facts about a specific topic, partner, or cause. This month we’re focused on the work being done on Utah’s college campuses.

In keeping with our theme of building a community for those working to end sexual violence in Utah, we’re growing our membership program, the Vanguard Network. This network is designed for anyone who is interested in supporting our statewide efforts to end sexual violence. If you like the work we’re doing, please consider joining the Vanguard Network by clicking here.

Our members are the backbone of our efforts and power the work that we’re doing in communities across the state. Here are the things that our members are making possible this month:

  • We’re tabling at the Weber County Fair on August 10-12th, 2017. We’re looking for volunteers to help cover and we’d love to have you join us. Details here.
  • On August 17th, we’ll be at the Davis County CARES Coalition meeting to support anti-sexual violence efforts in Davis County. We’re looking for engaged citizens to get involved. Learn more.
  • On August 23rd, we’re holding our first organizing meeting for the new Utah County Start by Believing Committee. The goal of this committee is to expand our Start by Believing campaign into Utah County and ensure that survivors receive the supportive response they deserve. Read more.
  • On August 24th, we’re partnering with the Utah Democratic Party to host a Back-to-School Bystander Intervention Skills Workshop. This course will focus on skill-building scenarios and will encourage attendees to practice facilitating educational activities such as bystander intervention pieces of training. Read more.
  • On August 29th, we’re partnering with several organizations at Utah Valley University to host a Back-to-School Bystander Intervention Skills Workshop. This course will focus on skill-building scenarios and will encourage attendees to practice facilitating educational activities such as bystander intervention pieces of training. Read more.

This is only a small portion of what we are doing and we hope that you’ll join us and get involved. 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 contribution 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 in our community.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like to schedule one of our events in your community. We are a statewide organization and love to support the work of our community partners across the state.

Thank you,
Turner C. Bitton
Executive Director
[email protected]
(801) 746-0404 Ext. 1

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