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Former Utah attorney general led crusade

Graham passionate about ending domestic violence

Published: Thursday, March 29 2007 12:26 p.m. MDT

Utah's last high-profile champion for domestic abuse concerns was Jan Graham, the state's attorney general from 1993-2001.

Graham was passionate about the issue and drove a campaign that delivered domestic abuse information to companies, doctor's offices, churches, schools and community groups throughout the state.

The programs went straight to the heart of stigma around domestic abuse — the notion that abuse is a secret, that people don't want to look at it, and that to do so makes an observer nosy or meddling.

"Our goal was to get abuse out of the dark corners and into the light of day," Graham said recently.

The program's direct objective was twofold, said Reed Richards, Graham's second in command at the time. It was designed first to stop the cycle of seriousness in family violence that begins with yelling and escalates to pushing, hitting and even killing. It also aimed to stop the chain of violence by which children repeat behavior they learn at home and become victims and abusers themselves.

So Graham, Richards and their staff led training sessions everywhere.

"We went to every city council that would let us in," Richards said.

They spoke to students and teachers.

More than 300 people showed up at an LDS Church gathering in Roosevelt.

They spoke to employees in hundreds of companies, including steelworkers at Geneva Steel near Orem. Afterward, Graham got anonymous calls from women whose husbands came home saying they recognized themselves in the presentation and wanted to get help.

Another training avenue took them to churches, synagogues and mosques, where clerical leaders told state officials that family violence was one of the major problems in their congregations.

They passed out thousands of copies of a video titled "One Hit Leads to Another."

There are few copies around now, and there's no one to produce it anymore, Richards said.

Nothing Graham ever did as attorney general was state funded. Community volunteers led many "Safe at Home" presentations.

Graham is mostly out of public life now. She practices law and has worked anonymously to help Joe

Torre, manager of the New York Yankees, to build his "Safe at Home" Foundation in New York. She is reluctant to speak out about domestic violence now, or to say what the state is doing wrong and what it could be doing right.

"I can also tell you from experience that the personal cost in leading out on this issue is notable," Graham said recently in an e-mail interview.

"The realities of it day after day for me created a huge emotional burden that, yes, drove my passion, but also left me with great sorrow and a feeling of powerlessness to change the harm so many children endure."

As attorney general, one of Graham's most powerful messages was to children.

Through Utah's "Safe at Home" program, she explained the fundamentals of abuse to youngsters: Abuse is not "normal" and is wrong, it is never a child's fault, the abuser can get help and can change, there are trusted adults who want to help, and many kids live in homes with abuse. If you are one of those children, the program reiterated, you are not alone.

"These messages sound simple, but most kids who witness abuse blame themselves," Graham said. "They think their home is the only place where it happens, or think that abuse is just the way life is and that no one cares that it is happening.

"None of that is true, so it is important that they are told the truth over and over again."

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