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. 

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Bystander Intervention Workshop Teaches Violence Prevention

The BYU Title IX Office and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault sponsored a Utah County Bystander Intervention Skills Workshop on May 11 to teach both men and women how to effectively prevent and potentially intervene on harmful situations.

Men’s Engagement Specialist for the State of Utah Department of Health Martin Liccardo conducted the workshop.

The bystander effect refers to people not helping someone in need because they assume somebody else will do it. Bystander intervention is a prevention approach to all types of violence, including sexual violence, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Liccardo said the goal of the workshop was to make everyone more comfortable with the topic because it is not just an issue at BYU.

People won’t help in most harmful situations because it’s risky or inconvenient and there are too many unknowns, according to Liccardo. He said when people do choose to step in there can be a dramatic impact.

“Prevention happens before violence occurs,” Liccardo said. “Intervention is what we do to stop violence while it’s happening or to mitigate or minimize the harm of violence.”

Liccardo said intervention is important but prevention should be the first goal.

He said people’s attitude about sex, sexuality and sexual violence, and the current culture teach that personal boundaries don’t matter.

At a young age, people are introduced to gender stereotypes and to a culture that devalues women, which is a precursor to violence, according to Liccardo.

“When you want to insult a man, the most powerful thing you can do is to call him a woman. When you want to insult a woman, the most offensive thing you can call her is a woman,” Liccardo said. “I wonder how we feel about women in this culture.”

Often times, women are called “crazy,” which silences them, according to Liccardo.

He also addressed implicit bias and unconscious bias. Licardo said it’s OK to have a certain attitude about a situation, but to be effective, each person can’t be biased and use those judgments to harms others when they need help.

Liccardo said people think if they can’t find the perfect way to help or don’t feel qualified to do so, they will do nothing, but there lots of ways to help. He said it’s difficult to talk about sex in a healthy and appropriate way in today’s culture, so this makes it even harder to talk about sexual violence.

While the culture can’t be changed by just one person, there is still an important role to be played by a bystander interventionist, according to Liccardo. He said people can directly and indirectly intervene and one may be more effective depending on the situation.

“It’s important to understand the bystander role because when you step outside of these roles, you tend to get yourself in situations where your safety is at risk or your effectiveness at intervening is at risk,” Liccardo said.

Liccardo said there are positive and negative consequences to intervening and people can’t always expect to be the hero when they intervene.

He challenged the group with difficult scenarios. There wasn’t always a right answer on how to intervene.

He said various ways to diffuse a harmful situation include distraction, silently staring, finding others to help and humor when appropriate.

People must be conscious of their own safety, but they should mix and match different approaches because any help is better than no help, according to Liccardo.

Liccardo said he wants people to keep thinking about the issue, recognize what barriers keep them from intervening and how bias plays a role.

Special education major Hailey Stolworthy said she learned valuable lessons from the workshop and was inspired to be a better advocate for others.

“We always need to be an advocate,” Stolworthy said. “I just think that if everyone was an advocate and if more people were interested in it instead of thinking this was just a women’s issue, then it would stop. We would see less of it.”

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

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BYU holding bystander intervention training, UVU appoints new associate vice president

Utah Valley University

New vice president — Stephen Whyte, a tenured associate professor, has been appointed the new associate vice president of university marketing and communications. He replaces Chris Taylor, who was moved to the position of assistant vice president of government affairs. Whyte has also been the coordinator of the undergraduate public relations program, has received the UVU Presidential Award of Excellence for Engaged Learning and was named the 2014 Professor of the Year for University Philanthropy.

Police Academy graduation — Students in the UVU Police Academy will graduate at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Grande Ballroom. The next academy graduation will be July 6.

Brigham Young University

Devotional — McKay Christensen, the managing director of alumni and external relations will give the devotional address at 11:05 a.m. Tuesday in the de Jong Concert Hall. His devotional will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org and archived on speeches.byu.edu.

Bystander intervention training — A bystander intervention skills workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday in room 3290 of the Wilkinson Student Center. The workshop is being put on by BYU Title IX and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. It is free and open to the public.

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

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Fearless 5K raises awareness to help eliminate sexual violence in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - An annual 5K run was held in Salt Lake City to help raise awareness about the devastating effects of sexual assault and raise funds to help combat the violence.

The Fearless 5K, held Saturday morning at Memory Grove, helps to raise critical funds to support the life changing work of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"It serves as a source of inspiration and hope for advocates and survivors of sexual assault alike," said Michelle Worthen, a board member for UCASA.

"The most important thing for people to remember is to start believing them. If somebody comes to you and tells you that they've been sexually assaulted, you need to believe them. Let the law enforcement and the courts do their due diligence to find out what happened."

This is the third year for the Fearless 5K where survivors of sexual assault and their supporters show up in hopes to help raise funds to support UCASA and their mission.

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

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Sexual violence victims coerced into crime need help, not punishment

The 2017 legislative session was arguably one of the most successful ever for advocates hoping to end sexual violence in our community. Legislation was passed mandating the submission and testing of sexual assault kits,tougher penalties for strangulation were enacted, and campus-based advocates will now be confidential resources for victims because of legislation that passed.

Of all the bills that passed and enacted one, of the most important — albeit unsung — pieces of legislation, House Bill 274, will make a remarkable difference in the lives of victims of sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and other crimes. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero of Salt Lake City and Sen. Wayne Harper allows for prosecutors and law enforcement to utilize a process known as vacatur to support victims of sexual violence who were forced, coerced, or defrauded into certain nonviolent crimes.

The case of Lynnsie Reddish and Terrance Chavez Jones highlights the critical need for this legislation, reinforcing many important community values and norms. One fact is simple — if coercion, force, or fraud are used to push a person to engage in a particular behavior or to act in a particular way — then that action by its very nature cannot be considered consensual. Sexual violence at its root is a crime of power and control.

Sexual violence manifests itself in a variety of ways throughout our community, but in this particular case it went reportedly far beyond a single act of exploitation. According to the Standard-Examiner, “One victim told authorities she worked as an ‘escort’ for Reddish for a year and a half. She said Reddish posted ads online and the money she earned from intercourse with clients went to Reddish in exchange for heroin. She described an incident on Jan. 18, 2017, in which both Reddish and Jones allegedly punched her, cut off her hair, beat her with a belt and caused a cut on her head that required eight staples, according to the court documents.”

Perpetrators use a person’s fear, hesitation or vulnerabilities to their advantage and seek to isolate, minimize, deny, and control the feelings or needs of the person they are targeting. In this particular case, the Standard reported, “Four victims told a special agent with the attorney general’s office how the couple used violence, fear and drug addiction to coerce them into performing sexual acts with clients.”

Under the provisions of House Bill 274, a person who has lost their autonomy or free will, or who has been the victim of force, coercion or fraud, can be given justice through vacatur. To vacate a charge means, at its core, that no crime has occurred. It is different than an expungement because it is a firm recognition by our community that a person is not a criminal if they commit a crime while being victimized through human trafficking, sexual exploitation, or any other means of control.

Prosecutors say the four women in this case were victimized, humiliated and defrauded. Fear and violence were reportedly used to extract a very particular behavior from them and in the end the perpetrators got what they wanted — a financial payout. This case is a particularly important one for understanding and responding to sexual violence.

As professional advocates for victims of sexual violence, we often work with victims and survivors who have made decisions others may not approve of; they may have engaged in activities that others find offensive or downright wrong. At the end of the day, though, we have a responsibility to stamp out sexual violence in all of its forms, whether it occurs in a dorm room at a college or to a person who works as a commercial sex worker or escort.

Our community is fundamentally better than to engage in victim-blaming. No person who has ever experienced sexual violence deserves it. Sexual violence is not a punishment or a repercussion for any behavior or action. If a loved one chose to ride a bike to work instead of riding the bus, we wouldn’t then say they deserved to be killed by a drunk driver for being on a bike instead of a bus.

The same logic should apply to all victims of crime, and that is why House Bill 274 is such a critical piece of our tool kit against sexual violence.

Turner C. Bitton is the executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and lives in Ogden with his husband and two dogs. The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault works to improve the systemic response to victims of sexual violence and to prevent it altogether. Learn more at UCASA.org.

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United We Stand (UP!), Sexual Assault Awareness 5K and Breathe Utah

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA) hosts the 2017 Fearless 5K recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Stunning statistics show that one in eight women, and one in 50 men, will be raped in Utah in their lifetimes. In its third year, the 5K raises critical funds to support the life-changing work of UCASA and serves as a source of inspiration and hope for advocates and survivors of sexual assault. If you care about ending sexual violence, you can run the 5K in-person or virtually. Memory Grove Park, 300 North Canyon Road, 801-746-0404, Saturday, May 6, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m., $35, ucasa.org

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Provo officer helps sexual assault victims, receives award

PROVO - A Provo Police Department employee will be receiving a major award this Friday when she's recognized for her work to help victims of sexual assault.

"It's a huge honor," said Kortney Hughes, Victim's Service Coordinator for Provo PD. "But it's not an award I've earned on my own."

Hughes credits her staff for helping to push for Federal grants to fund a handful of measures that will make preserving and testing sexual assault evidence. After attending a yearly training conference in 2015, Hughes learned that thousands of rape kits go untested across the country. In many cases, she says the kits were never tested because the crime was solved and the test was deemed an unnecessary and expensive move.

"We didn't know then what we know now," Hughes said. She explains that now DNA can link suspects to crimes committed in other states as well.

After attending the training, Hughes came back to the Provo Police Department and was instrumental in finding 300 untested rape kits and pushing them through for processing, including sending thirty of them out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for higher testing.

What Hughes may be most proud of, however, is her latest accomplishment. Hughes wrote a grant seeking nearly a half a million dollars in funding to allow rape victims to go to any emergency room in the county for testing after an assault. In the past, she said victims would have to go to a specific family clinic which wasn't open 24 hours.

"We have a team of nurses in training right now that will have a 45 minutes response time and perform that exam right there so the victims no longer have to wait to shower or eat or to heal,” a proud Hughes said.

"After reading several nominations, it became very clear that sh was very deserving of this award," beamed Turner Bitton, Executive Director for Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. UCASA will present awards to eight people in the state at a dinner later in the week. He says one in three Utah women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

He said Hughes received one of the most nomination totals of anyone in the state for her persistence and accomplishments.

"The overwhelming sentiment is that she took the victim advocacy program down at Provo Police Department to new heights.”

This piece originally appeared on FOX 13, Salt Lake City. Click here to read the original article.

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Utah Valley Everyday Hero: Provo police victims advocate a force for good, pushes rape kit testing

5908ec53269be.image.jpgMany people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.

When Kortney Hughes attended the Conference on Crimes Against Women in 2014, she went in believing sexual assault kits were primarily used when a suspect’s identity was not known.

“When we were collecting these kits, we didn’t know any better,” she said. “That evidence used only used to help identify someone.”

But after attending the conference and hearing from a particular keynote speaker, Hughes reevaluated her understanding of rape kits and made it her goal to test all untested rape kits submitted to the Provo Police Department.

Her tenacious attitude, compassion towards victims of sexual assault and leadership with victims services earned her the recognition as law enforcement advocate of the year from the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“Kortney has taken the Provo Police Department victims advocate program to new levels that we haven’t seen before,” said Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition against Sexual Assault. “What she has done is a model for the whole state.”

Hughes has been with the Provo Police Department for 20 years, the four most recent with the victims services program. She and the other advocates are available around the clock to help any victim of a major crime, including sexual assault.

“They’re on call 24/7 to assist and help these victims—help them heal, help them move forward and provide them with resources,” she said.

But not only is Hughes pulling extra hours, she has been a tremendous force in testing backlogged rape kits across the state.

Shortly after attending the 2014 conference, state services also began moving forward to test backlogged rape kits. A special committee was formed in 2014, which Hughes frequently contributed to, to decide how to ensure the highest priority kits were tested first.

Rape kit testing not only identifies the suspect, but it also confirms other information, such as suspects wanted in other parts of the country.

“Law enforcement agencies have a significant number of backlogged kits mostly due to resources and a whole host of other issues,” Bitton said.

In fact, in September 2015, Provo police officers reported that a newly tested 7-year-old rape kit helped police find a new suspect in a sexual assault.

Since the need has been addressed and better understood, more than 3,000 backlogged rape kits have either been tested or submitted at the Utah Crime Lab, 200 of which were submitted from the Provo Police Department.

Hughes even helped secure a federal grant from the National Institute of Justice to have their top 30 high-priority kits tested.

“The department has been very supportive,” Hughes said. “This is something they’ve entrusted me with, to run the victim services division and make sure our community is getting the best possible service when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault.”

But Hughes modestly said it’s “silly” to recognize her alone for the award when she feels it’s her team around her that really makes the difference.

“It just feels silly that it’s singling me out for something when there are so many boots on the ground, out there making such a difference every day,” she said. “I have an amazing staff of advocates that at the drop of a hat are out the door. … I feel like this is for all of them.”

The support backing Hughes’s nomination was overwhelming, Bitton said. Of the eight individuals who were awarded Sexual Assault Awareness Month awards, she received the second largest number of votes — a credit to her willingness to act as a force for good for the victims she serves.

“She has worked both internally within the system, and externally outside of the system to bring together stakeholders of all different backgrounds to serve victims with excellence,” Bitton said.

Hughes said this award shows that the Provo Police Department is focused on victims and their safety.

“We’re here. There are a lot of people out there that want to help,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that have resources that you can talk to. … Let us help you.”

Nine other honorable mentions were also recognized, one of whom was Kevin J Worthen, president of Brigham Young University.

Bitton said he’s been touched by how eagerly BYU is making changes after it came to light that many were concerned about how BYU responded and reacted to students’ reports of sexual assault. Bitton said Worthen has undertaken a tremendous task by reshaping its Title IX and Honor Code offices, but is doing so well.

“They’ve faced a lot of criticism but to his credit, they have chosen to go down a very difficult path and create good, evidence victim’s based services on campus,” Bitton said. “That is no small undertaking for any campus, let alone a private institution that is religious-based.”

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May Executive Director's Message


This month is Mental Health Month across the country and we're participating. We’re recognizing the important link between mental health and the recovery from trauma. We'll also spend the month acknowledge the importance of mental health awareness and self-care for advocates and professionals working in our field. This month we’ll be showcasing the importance of maintaining strong mental health practices and we’ll be showcasing the impact of trauma on the lifelong outcomes of us as people. 

In keeping with our theme of building a community for those working to end sexual violence in Utah, we’ve created a new membership program called 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 kicking off May with our 3rd Annual [Fearless] 5K on Saturday, May 6th. The Fearless 5K raises critical funds to support the life-changing work of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and serves as a source of inspiration and hope for advocates and survivors of sexual assault alike. Even if you don’t run, come have fun at the after party in the park, it's free and you are guaranteed to have a blast! Read more.

  • On May 10th, 2017 we're partnering with several organizations and agencies to present a special pre-conference session to the Network on Juveniles Offending Sexually (NOJOS) Conference. This special event, Youth Pathways to Human Trafficking will identify and discuss risk factors for youth as it relates to human trafficking. Read more.
  • On May 11th, we’re partnering with the Utah Department of Health’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program to bring Bystander Intervention Training to Utah County again. This time, the training will be held at Brigham Young University. Read more.
  • On May 18th, the Davis County CARES (Community Allied Resources to End Sexual Violence) Coalition is having their monthly meeting. CARES is an effort that began in Davis County in April of 2016 with the intention of preventing sexual violence throughout Davis County. Read more.

  • On May 30th, we are hosting the third installment of our professional development and networking event series. This course will provide an overview of the issues, terminology, and facts surrounding polygamy and plural marriage in Utah. We have partnered with Cherish Families to provide this free educational event for the public and professionals working in the sexual violence prevention, intervention, and treatment field. 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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A SAFE action plan may help prevent sexual assaults by strangers

Salt Lake City — (KUTV) After a woman reported to police that she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in her vehicle in Sandy, Utah, experts say it could help if you prepare an action plan before the attack.

Advocates for sexual assault victims say this kind of attack is rare, but there are still steps that can be taken to try to decrease the chances of being victimized.

Turner Bitton with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault says only seven percent of sex crimes are committed by strangers. Typically, those committing such a crime are likely to be repeat offenders.

Experts say to think S-A-F-E.

S -- SECURE your car and home. Carry a flashlight in your car as a weapon and lock your doors at all times.

A -- AVOID unsafe places and people. Avoid walking alone or in the dark.

F -- FLEE if you are attacked. Run and scream and get away if you can. 

E -- ENGAGE your attacker if you can't get away. Be firm and try to think and talk yoru way out of it and fight. Use your keys or hair spray or anything to get away.

Bitton also said that even if you don't do these things, it doesn't mean you deserve to be victimized.

"If this happens to you, this is not your fault. Nobody is to blame in this circumstance except for the perpetrator," Bitton said.

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

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