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.