August Executive Director's Message

augustbannerfb-01.png

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

Add your reaction Share

UCASA Announces Statewide LGBTQ Coordinating Council

New Council will focus on LGBTQ inclusion in anti-sexual violence efforts 

Salt Lake City, UT, July 21, 2017– The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) announced the creation of a new statewide LGBTQ Coordinating Council to ensure that LGBTQ survivors of and victims of sexual violence, as well as the broader LGBTQ community, are represented in victim services organizations, institutions, and partnerships that serve sexual violence survivors statewide. This includes but is not limited to:

  1. Ensuring adequate representation of LGBTQ survivors in all Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) statewide.

  2. Ensuring that LGBTQ-affirming training is provided statewide to sexual violence programs, law enforcement, and any other institution that interacts with sexual violence survivors.

  3. Ensuring that print, online, and others forms of information are available online to improve services for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.

  4. Producing LGBTQ-affirming materials for distribution statewide with a focus on rural, underserved, and culturally-specific programs and communities.

  5. Assisting organizations serving LGBTQ survivors to understand the unique cultural, historical, and institutional barriers faced by LGBTQ survivors in accessing services.

  6. As the Council expands UCASA expects that members of the Council and the community will identify additional goals and objectives that cannot currently be anticipated by our organization.

UCASA has opened applications to the public for those who are interested in serving on the Council. Council members are expected to agree to a one year term on the Council. Members of the public who are interested in the council can find additional information at ucasa.org/lgbtq.

###

 For immediate release

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

lgbtcouncilweb-01.png

Add your reaction Share

Council to address LGBTQ sexual violence

 

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault announced the creation of a new statewide LGBTQ Coordinating Council to ensure that LGBTQ survivors of and victims of sexual violence, as well as the broader LGBTQ community, are represented in victim services organizations, institutions, and partnerships that serve sexual violence survivors statewide.

“LGBTQ people experience violence at a disproportionate rate compared to our community at large,” said executive director Turner Bitton. “We believe fundamentally that LGBTQ people have unique insights, experiences, and backgrounds that will enrich and strengthen our efforts to end sexual violence in Utah.”

“We’re hoping to get a lot of interest from folks across the state who are interested in participating in the Council and ensure that LGBTQ people are represented throughout our work. This Council, at its core, is about building power and ensuring that LGBTQ people have a voice in the broader movement to end sexual violence,” said executive director Turner Bitton.

Bitton says that several studies indicate sexual violence is often an overlooked dimension of hate or bias-motivated crimes against adults who identify (or are perceived to be) LGBTQ. Sexual harassment between same-sex peers: Intersection of mental health, homophobia, and gays and lesbians are more likely to experience sexual violence compared to other groups typically targeted for hate crime victimization.

“All of this is particularly concerning because research also indicates that such hate crimes are less likely to be reported to authorities than other types of hate crimes, due to fears of bias against LGBTQ people who experience violence,” Bitton said.

The Council seeks to ensure adequate representation of LGBTQ survivors in all of Utah’s Sexual Assault Response Teams. These teams ensure a victim-centered response when sexual violence has been reported. This helps start the healing process, but also helps the survivor maintain the courage to go through the investigation and prosecution processes.

LGBTQ-affirming training will also be provided statewide to sexual violence programs, law enforcement, and any other institution that interacts with sexual violence survivors.

The group will also produce information for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence, and will focus specifically on rural, underserved, and culturally-specific programs and communities.

UCASA has opened applications to the public for those who are interested in serving on the Council. Council members are expected to agree to a one year term on the Council. Members of the public who are interested in the council can find additional information at ucasa.org/LGBTQ.

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

Add your reaction Share

U Changes Focus On Preventing Sexual Assault, Providing Resources To Victims

University of Utah administrators are taking steps to make the campus safer. The changes include mandatory sexual assault awareness training for students, faculty and staff.

U President David Pershing convened the Presidential Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault back in December when campus safety and sexual assault dominated news reports locally and nationwide. This week, Pershing approved nearly $400,000 in funding for the group’s recommendations. They include more lighting on campus, additional staff, mandatory safety and prevention training for everyone and a new website that Barb Snyder, vice president of student affairs says will be a resource for crime victims and people who have safety concerns. 

“How to report if something has happened to you,” Snyder says. “Making students feel like they can report, not just crimes but a light that’s out at night or they’re walking across campus and they feel, this doesn’t feel like a safe part of campus to me. They’ll be able to more easily report that as well.”

U employee Sheri Jardine thinks the sexual assault awareness course is a good idea.

“Especially students coming in who are young and maybe haven’t experienced a lot of life yet,” she says. “And then they get here and they’re on their own and I think it’s easy to miss where that line is.”

Zach Putnam is a sophomore. He agrees.

“Awareness always helps,” Putnam says. “But is it a massive problem here? I don’t know anyone personally but I hear stories all the time. Like in the news more than anything.”

Turner Bitton is with Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. He says a safe campus can be defined in two ways. 

“There’s a recognition by staff and faculty and students, really the entire campus community that sexual assault will not be tolerated and that the university is committed to eliminating it,” Bitton says.

The second, he says is having systems in place to properly investigate reports of sexual assault. He says the U is well on its way to achieving both.

This piece originally appeared on kuer.org/kuer 90.1FM. Click here to read the original article and listen to the recording of the broadcast.

Add your reaction Share

Targeting Isolation To Create A Safer Community For Those In Plural Marriage

The impact of sexual violence on people in a plural marriage relationship can be complicated. In Utah, the state’s Coalition Against Sexual Assault is working with victims who struggle to find support for families who may have more than one spouse. Many legal issues and feelings of isolation can complicate matters for those who need help.

Plural marriage, which is better known as polygamy, is illegal in the U.S. However, there are still those who have more than one spouse. For some, this practice is religious, for others it is culture based. Alina Darger has one husband and two sisterwives. She is the founder of Cherish Families, an organization that focuses on helping domestic abuse and sexual assault victims in a plural marriage context. She said there are a lot of assumptions about her and others who are in a plural marriage.

“I’ve been asked a couple of times in my life how I escaped polygamy or questions about my prophet Warren Jeffs, which I’ve never met him, I don’t know anything about him,” she said. 

Darger is part of a group of independents that practice plural marriage because of religious reasons but do not belong to any specific church. Each group and family has varying beliefs that range from fairly modern lives like the Darger’s, to more conservative lives and dress that you might see in someone who is part of the FLDS group, formerly led by Warren Jeffs. Because of the stigma surrounding plural marriage and various raids targeting this population, Darger says many people don’t get help when they need it.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault adds new members to Board of Directors

The leadership team of UCASA reflects the broader collaborative spirit of UCASA: only by bringing together people from all sectors of society can we create innovative solutions that address the issue of sexual assault in our communities. Media professionals seeking a full list of members of the UCASA Board of Directors should visit the Board of Directors section of this website.

Added to the Board of Directors are:

Suzanne_Harrison_Photo.jpgDr. Suzanne Harrison

Dr. Suzanne Harrison practices at Riverton Hospital where she is Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. She is a graduate of Stanford University, received her M.D. at the University of Utah Medical School.

Born and raised in Provo, she and her husband John are raising their three children in Draper. Dr. Harrison is a previous candidate for District 32 of the Utah House of Representatives.

She enjoys traveling and the amazing outdoor opportunities that Utah offers, including skiing, hiking, and mountain biking with her family.

Marty_Liccardo.jpegMr. Marty Liccardo

Marty has been an anti-violence educator and activist for over 15 years. He has extensive experience speaking and training students, faculty, and staff at colleges and universities around the US as well as providing programming in the public and private sector. Marty will provide in-depth, and interactive presentations, programs, training and keynote speeches. He uniquely uses humor and direct engagement to inform, guide and support audiences into critical thought and active personal commitment.

Marty's professional career has been with college and university students, and he has a broad range of programming and presenting experience. Currently, Marty serves as the Men's Engagement Specialist for the Utah Department of Health, coordinating statewide efforts to engage men in anti-violence work. He is also the co-founder of the Men's Anti-Violence Network (MAN) of Utah.

Naeim_Sobhani.jpgMr. Naeim Sobhani

Naeim is a refugee from Iran. He is grateful for the opportunities he has in this country, and he tries to give back to the community. He received a Bachelors of Finance from the University of Utah, and now he is working on his Masters in Finance. Naeim is a financial analyst at Zions Bancorporation.

He enjoys hiking, fishing, biking and volunteering during the summer and sitting on his couch during winter.

# # # # #

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

Add your reaction Share

Utah Law That Could Send Online Bullies to Jail Criticized

By HALLIE GOLDEN, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers hope a new, unusual law cuts down on increasingly troubling forms of cyber harassment by giving authorities the ability to send online bullies to jail for a year.

Law enforcement, school officials and support groups back the effort, but some lawyers and a libertarian-leaning group have balked at what they call vague language in the law. They believe it could be unconstitutional and lead innocent people to be charged with crimes.

The regulation won unanimous approval in the Legislature and makes it a crime to post information online that can identify someone, including their name, photo and place of employment, to "intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another."

Similar laws in New York and North Carolina have been ruled unconstitutional in recent years, said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who called Utah's measure a violation of the First Amendment.

He helped launch a lawsuit last week challenging a similar law in Ohio.

"There are some situations where you might say this is punishable, especially if it's a threat," Volokh said. "But again, it deliberately applies to speech that doesn't fit within any First Amendment exception."

An advocacy group says the measure might have helped a gay Utah State University student who was afraid to come forward in 2013 to report being sexually assaulted after someone started posting his photo and phone number on Craigslist along with details on the forms of sex he was interested in.

The student hadn't revealed publicly that he was gay and was terrified about the possibility that people would find out, said Turner Bitton of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Such cyberbullying has increased in recent years and can be especially damaging when used in relation to sexual violence, he said.

Those critical of the Utah law contend it could apply to innocuous, normal online behavior, such as somebody criticizing his neighbor's choice of house paint on Facebook or complaining about a state lawmaker in an online comment section.

The law means the disgruntled house owner or lawmaker could initiate criminal proceedings by arguing that the information was posted to harass or frighten them, said David Reymann, a First Amendment lawyer in Utah.

"It's not going to just apply to the typical stalker who is moving to an online platform to continue what we consider to be stalking," Reymann said.

This is not the first time Utah lawmakers have attempted to combat this type of cyberbullying.

Last year, they considered a similar measure but stripped out a section on identifying information because of some concerns with its broad language, according to then-Rep. David Lifferth, a Republican who sponsored the 2016 bill. Lawmakers said they ran out of time to approve it.

"I just can't imagine a situation where this would be inappropriately applied," said Republican state Sen. Daniel Thatcher, adding that he sponsored the new law at the request of the Department of Public Safety.

Maj. Brian Redd said the department supports the general effort to reduce cybercrime, but it was Lifferth who pushed to address the issue.

Connor Boyack, president of the libertarian-leaning nonprofit group Libertas Institute, said he plans to push for a measure next legislative session that narrows the scope of the law's language.

He said he wants to replace words such as "harass" with "significant harassment," so "prosecutors have a higher bar to meet in order to prove their case."

Add your reaction Share

Advocates: Utah Sexual Assault Bill Could Harm Victims

By HALLIE GOLDEN, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Republican state representative is proposing legislation to require that Utah colleges give immunity to sexual assault victims for conduct code violations related to alcohol and drugs and allow school officials to report serious assaults to police.

But a sexual assault survivor and an advocacy group are pushing back against the proposal, saying it wouldn't stop schools from investigating many victims.

Bill sponsor Kim Coleman said the measure is meant to make sure institutions are taking the right steps to reduce these crimes, and handle them appropriately when they do happen.

The news comes about one year after Mormon-owned Brigham Young University faced a major backlash when it was revealed it was investigating sexual assault victims for violating the school's strict code of behavior. The institution announced in October that it would revise this policy.

Madeline MacDonald, one of the students who reported being sexually assaulted while a student at BYU, said on Wednesday that a bill that only protects students from being investigated for violations related to alcohol and drugs would not have protected her.

"Drug and alcohol cases are a minority of the cases where women are scared to report," said MacDonald.

Melanie Heath, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education, said in an email that amnesty is not appropriate in all sexual assault situations, but did not provide any examples.

"It is important for the higher ed institution to have discretion," she said.

Coleman introduced a similar bill during the 2017 legislative session, but it failed amid concern that it wouldn't protect all victims from investigations and would take control out of the hands of these students.

She said she is still working on the new bill and may consider revamping it so that students who report sexual assaults are granted full immunity.

Coleman said the measure may also allow schools to refer reports of abuse to law enforcement agencies if they appear to pose a major threat to campus safety.

Turner Bitton, of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that could actually result in fewer people reporting assaults to their school because they don't want officials going to law enforcement.

"It takes away that power from the survivor and gives it to the institution," he said.

BYU announced in October that it would no longer investigate student victims who reported sex assaults for violations of the school's strict honor code that bans drinking and premarital sex.

The change came after several sexual assault victims said they felt silenced by the policy and the Provo university launched an internal review.

The probe found that the Title IX office on campus sometimes shared victims' names and details of assaults with the honor-code office after investigations were completed.

Add your reaction Share

Utah continues to hold out on the Prison Rape Elimination Act — but why?

Two states continue to reject the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

One is Arkansas.

The other is Utah.

And, as a result, Gov. Gary Herbert’s refusal to comply with the 2003 law cost Utah more than $420,000 in Justice Department grants since 2014.

It’s time for Herbert to explain how his objections to the law make Utah inmates safer — either that, or sign a compliance letter with the Department of Justice.

Herbert wrote to the DOJ in May 2014, outlining his objections to PREA.

While he supports the law’s intent, Herbert said, he refused to implement some requirements “because they are not sound policy and in some circumstances undermine our efforts to eliminate prison rape.”

One example of unsound policy, according to Herbert — a requirement for officers to announce themselves upon entering a unit containing inmates of the opposite gender.

Herbert said that would allow inmates to hide sexual assaults already in progress and put the officers at risk.

So, governor, are you saying it’s better for an officer to stumble upon an assault and try to subdue a desperate attacker?

Are you saying it’s better to let an assault continue until an officer sees it, when the announcement of an officer’s arrival could immediately stop a rape?

Are you saying Utah corrections officers aren’t trained to recognize the signs of sexual assault and inmates could easily conceal evidence of a violent attack?

Herbert also objected to the PREA audit program as costly and time-consuming.

Would those audits help Utah prisons respond more effectively to sexual assaults? Would they help the public assess the performance of the Utah Department of Corrections?

Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, says they would.

"What advocates understand is that sexual violence is never a punishment for any crime," Bitton told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Would the cost of the audits been offset by the state’s $422,000 in lost Justice Department grants? The DOJ withheld more than $146,000 in corrections, law enforcement, juvenile justice and women’s programs in 2016, The Trib reported. That’s on top of nearly $135,000 in 2015 and more than $141,000 in 2014.

In a state that cannot find room for prisoners in its state mental hospital and fails to adequately fund its public defender system, an extra $422,000 would’ve helped save lives and protect the rights of indigent Utahns.

Herbert’s spokeswoman, Kirsten Rappleye, said in an email to The Trib that the governor still maintains his 2014 position on PREA.

If so, it’s now up to Herbert to demonstrate how his approach does a better job of protecting prisoners than the federal guidelines adopted by 48 other states; it’s up to Herbert to explain how refusing to announce the arrival of officers in a unit with inmates of the opposite gender is worth $422,000 — and counting.

And if he can’t, it’s time for Utah to end its holdout on PREA.

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

Add your reaction Share

Utah one of only two states not complying with federal prison-rape guidelines, DOJ says

Utah continues to reject federal guidelines meant to prevent prison rape — and now is one of only two states that won't comply, according to a recently released U.S. Department of Justice report.

Nineteen states have fully adopted standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, according to the department's latest compliance list. Another 34 states and U.S. territories have demonstrated they are working toward compliance.

But Utah and Arkansas continue to reject the standards. Several other states — including Idaho, Alaska and Texas — initially rejected PREA but in recent years agreed to move toward compliance. 

Kirsten Rappleye, spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Herbert, said in an email that Utah "fully supports the goal of eliminating rape within our correctional facilities," and the state "implemented many of the stated recommendations prior to the PREA's passage, and has now implemented the majority of them."

But she said state officials felt certain aspects of PREA "undermined our dedicated efforts to eliminate prison rape," so the state has decided not to comply.

Passed in 2003, PREA mandated increased sex-abuse training for staff and the ability of inmates to report sexual assault to a rape crisis center or similar organization, among other guidelines. It also required prisons be audited for compliance with the law every three years, and created a uniform method to collect data on prison sexual assaults. Federal statistics estimate about 200,000 inmates are sexually assaulted each year.

For Utah, refusing to implement the standards has meant losing out on significant federal grant money. Last year, $146,132 was withheld in Department of Justice grant funds for corrections and law enforcement, juvenile justice and violence against women programs, according to Bureau of Justice Assistance figures. In 2015, it was $134,899, and in 2014, the state lost $141,347.

Herbert wrote a letter to the DOJ in 2014, saying the state would not adopt certain requirements of PREA, including one rule that prison workers who entered secure facilities with opposite gender inmates announce their presence. He also wrote PREA's prison audit structure was overly costly and burdensome for the state.

Rappleye said the letter continues to represent the governor's position on PREA.

"We would like to work with the federal government in every way to reduce prison rape, but we will not sacrifice results to satisfy an arbitrary one-size-fits-all process," Herbert wrote in his 2014 letter.

Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said implementing PREA would increase prison sexual-assault transparency in Utah through regular audits and the uniform collection of sexual assault data that could be compared to other states. Better accounting could help lead to improved rape responses at certain under-performing facilities, he said. 

"What advocates understand is that sexual violence is never a punishment for any crime," Bitton said. 

Mara Haight, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, said more resources are needed for prisons to help prevent abuse and give support to sexual assault victims — especially considering a majority of inmates have already experienced some form of violence or abuse prior to entering prison. Access to outside sexual-assault resources is one area that needs major improvement at Utah prisons, she said. 

Haight also said it was frustrating to see federal grant money was being withheld due to the state's noncompliance.

"It means fewer resources to be able to work on improving these systems and building up resources," she said. "It's really troubling that our state can't commit to the bare minimum of what PREA is proposing."

When the DOJ released its first list of states complying with PREA in 2014, only two states were certified in compliance, and six states opposed the rules. 

Lovisa Stannow, executive director of the human rights organization Just Detention International, called Herbert's hold-out on adopting the standards "disappointing" and "indefensible" in light of how many states now support the standards.

"Fortunately, much of the early cynicism around the PREA standards has faded away," Stannow said in a statement. "Elected representatives and corrections professionals are realizing that the standards make a lot of sense."

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

Add your reaction Share