Provo survivors of sexual assault shared their #MeToo stories and proposed swifter justice, better consent education in schools and open community dialogue as solutions to Utah’s sexual violence problem in a Provo Town Hall meeting Sept. 10.
The representatives of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault shared Utah Health Department statistics stating one in five women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Utah’s women are at an even higher risk: one in three Utah women will be sexually assaulted.
The members of the coalition said they hope to change this. Coalition Board Chair Laurie Hofmann proposed implementing traveling town hall events focused on providing a safe space for people to share their stories, opening a dialogue on how to help survivors and prevent further abuse. She said the campaign of Roy Moore, a 2017 Alabama senatorial candidate accused of sexual assault and pedophilia, inspired her to organize the town halls.
Hofmann began by sharing her personal #MeToo story at the town hall meeting held in the Provo Library.
“I was raped in college,” she said. “I never reported my assault because I was ashamed and convinced that it was my fault.”
Hofmann said her journey from victim to survivor, and to her preferred term as “a fighter, a fire and a force of nature,” wasn’t immediate. She said she initially blamed herself for decades.
“If only I had not been wearing the outfit I was wearing. If only I had not been alone with a boy in his fraternity bedroom. If only I had screamed louder and fought harder. If only,” Hofmann said.
The mindset of initially blaming oneself for abuse and assault was shared by many local survivors at the town hall. The survivors discussed how a toxic rape culture is often magnified by religious institutions’ attempts to teach chastity in unhealthy ways.
Provo survivors, parents, supporters and students who attended the meeting also spoke of their frustration with the two-year average to process rape kits, the lack of consent education in homes and schools, and the importance of political involvement to achieve legislative changes.
“When people stand up and bare their souls like this, we need to believe what they’re saying,” Hofmann said of her experience traveling across Utah to host these town hall meetings. “We need to provide safe spaces to talk about this so they can work through their pain.”
Hofmann stressed the first step is to “start by believing” and the next is creating environments where people can have these hard conversations and take what they learn back to their communities.
James Singer, the Democratic nominee in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, attended to share his experiences and solutions.
“When I look at my community as Native Americans, they are the most vulnerable of all communities. This is an epidemic,” Singer said. “Oppressed communities are targeted and trafficked.”
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network statistics show Native American women have the highest risk of being victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, they are twice as likely to be victims than women of other races.
Singer extended an invitation to all men to take sexual violence seriously, change male culture and no longer allow demeaning behaviors and comments against women.
Coalition outreach specialist Christian Fullmer shared information about their victim resource app called “You Are a Survivor,” which is downloadable through the Apple App Store and through Google Play. He told his story of surviving childhood abuse and getting to a point of confrontation and closure with his abuser.
Resources and healing are available. Please call one of Utah’s 24/7 hotlines.
Utah’s 24-hour Sexual Violence Crisis Line: 1-888-421-1100
Center For Women And Children In Crisis:
Domestic violence 24-hour hotline: 801-377-5500
Rape Crisis 24-hour hotline: 801-356-2511