If you knew you could make a difference in the life of an assault survivor, would you do it? By getting involved in this year’s Utah legislative session, you can.
Over the last several years, Utahns have made great progress in addressing issues of violence. Legislative changes have addressed human trafficking, protective orders, child sexual abuse and mandatory consent. Journalists have brought the conversation about sexual assault front and center. Utah universities have established violence prevention and advocacy programs. Thousands have shown support for campus survivors. Many law enforcement agencies have adopted trauma-informed survivor interviewing techniques. These are all successes to be celebrated, but we are far from solving the immense problem of violence in Utah.
Research collected by the Utah Uniform Crime Reports and Utah Department of Health have found there are more rapes perpetrated against Utahns than the national average. In 2013 Utah women experienced nearly 170,000 intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes. Between 2000-11, Utah communities experienced 226 domestic violence-related homicides, averaging 19 deaths per year.
As we look to what 2017 will bring, let’s renew our commitment to reject violence and act with compassion, integrity, respect and love for one another. Let’s practice our values through our actions and inspire those around us to do the same. Let’s commit to actively participating in creating healthy relationships and communities for all.
Additionally, let us not forget our civic duties. Our legislative session began Jan. 23. I urge you to learn about and stay up to date with bills that directly affect survivors through the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault website. Write and call your state legislators and ask them to support these bills and the survivors they serve to protect.
Show up at legislators’ offices, and tell them why this matters to you. Use your creativity and make videos, photos and art that stands out. If you are a social media guru, use your reach and hashtag skills, and ask your family and friends to do the same. If it is safe for you, tell your story.
Talk to your family members, your loved ones, your neighbors and your community about these bills and urge them to connect with their representatives as well. Volunteer with UCASA to support legislative and lobbying efforts. Donate to state coalitions, to your local sexual assault and domestic violence service provider, or to your school's violence prevention and advocacy program. Stand up to harassment, discrimination and violence.
I am asking that you believe in your power to create positive change in your life, in your loved ones’ lives, in the lives of your neighbors and community members. If each and every one of us just did at least one thing this year to support survivor-centered legislation, we would be successful in increasing the safety for all Utahns. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”