SALT LAKE CITY — Amid the bustling stream of people in the Capitol rotunda is a clothesline of diverse T-shirts. Though they are brightly colored, the stories scrawled upon them in permanent ink are grim.
"My mother, my girlfriend, my close friend all have accounts (of domestic and sexual abuse), similar to the ones on these shirts," said Jayson Hale, 27, a U.S. Snowboarding Team member from Sierraville, Calif. "More must be done to change perception and end this problem."
Hale and teammate Jonathan Cheever joined the domestic violence prevention community Monday in support of the proposed Dating Violence Protection Act.
HB50, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D–Salt Lake City, would allow those age 18 and older in dating relationships to obtain protective orders.
"I hope the bill protects a group of people that thus far have been left out through a loophole in the law, and ultimately that it helps prevent crime and leads us to the vision where we don't have to exist in our neighborhoods and our communities with a veil of violence," Seelig said.
The Men's Anti-Violence Network of Utah has teamed with local and national anti-violence organizations to initiate the Clothesline Project, an campaign designed to increase awareness through a display of more than 100 hand-decorated T-shirts depicting messages of interpersonal violence in Utah.
"Problems of violence aren't limited to one place," said MAN's Steve Reiher. "They cross ethnic boundaries, religious boundaries, men, women — and since they affect everybody, they can only be solved when we all come together."
Rick Sorensen spoke in support of the bill, drawing upon his experience as the father of a victim of dating violence.
"She was violated in ways no woman should ever be violated," he said. "I lost my little girl that night."
Sorensen spoke of the difficulties of wanting to hug and show love to a beloved daughter, who would shrink at his touch after the violation took place.
"It's hard as a father when you can't fix it," he said.
"It is time for all the good men and women in this state and in this country to stand up and say, 'Enough is enough,'" Sorensen said. "It's time for us to bring this to law, and it's time for us to stop this from happening."
Hale and Cheever are doing their part to make a difference.
"Professional athletes are in the public eye and can be role models to younger men," Hale said.
"It's strange that the world tries to teach women how to prevent sexual assault," said Cheever, 27, a Park City resident originally from Boston. "We really should be getting at the root of the issue. We can each teach the men and boys we know that it isn't right."
Woods Cross Police Chief Greg Butler announced changes in tackling domestic violence in his city.
"We're going to roll out a new program that we hope will spread countywide and, ultimately, statewide," Butler said. "This program came out of the state of Maryland, where they reduced domestic abuse homicides by 46 percent."
The program includes 11 questions that victims of domestic violence will be asked, which help law enforcement to determine if there is a problem.
For Brandy Farmer, a survivor of domestic violence, Utah has come a long way.
"When I was a young girl, I was expected to allow a man to force himself on me," Farmer said. "In those days, you were afraid and ashamed to tell anyone."
Farmer, who has suffered sexual assault, kidnapping and domestic violence, says she refuses to allow her 15-year-old granddaughter to undergo such experiences.
"We've changed," she said. "We are holding people responsible for these crimes."
Farmer has devoted the past 29 years of her life to educating people across the state about domestic violence. She currently works for the Utah Domestic Violence Council.
Ned Searle, of the Utah Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence, called dating violence "a man's issue."
"We need to be more involved and more aware of what's going on so we can help engage men to have better behavior and to mentor young boys to grow up violence free," Searle said.
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