Director of Utah shelter for abused women 'grateful' sex abuse stories revealed

(KUTV) Julee Smith is sorry for what victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence have endured, but said she is "grateful" accounts, once hidden against the rich and powerful, now have come to light.

"I've heard this from a number of people," Smith said, the director of the Ogden non-profit Your Community Connection for eight years. "When you feel like you're not alone, when you feel like there are other people that have experienced what you have, and that they have the courage to speak up and be counted, and that they will come together as a group and support each other, makes all the difference."

Names of the accused, in what seems an endless stream of stories, include Weinstein, Lauer, Rose, Franken and more.

Smith said her organization is fielding thousands more calls than just a few years back, and the number of domestic and sexual abuse clients has grown. But the stats may mirror more awareness on the national level, not serve as a strong reaction to it.

"I accepted it," said a woman, who told 2News she suffered abuse at the hands of her boyfriend for years. "I decided to spend of the rest of my life with this person regardless of the abuse."

She did not want to be identified, but said the week of Thanksgiving she finally called the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault for help. She said she did it at the urging of a friend, and for fear her boyfriend might kill her.

"They gave me hope that it could be different," she said.

Stories against high-profile figures also seemed to have impact with her.

"I felt relief, I felt relief," said the woman. "I felt like my kind would finally have their day, would finally be able to get out of the cage."

At the coalition, director Turner Bitton said web traffic has shot up in the last several months. There were less than 6,000 visits to its web page in August, compared to more than 12,000 in November.

Free and confidential support for victims and survivors of sexual assault or harassment is available 24/7 in Utah. The number is 1-888-421-1100.

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