OREM — Drawing on the “me too” campaign’s spotlight on sexual assault and harassment, anti-domestic violence advocates gathered for a vigil at Utah Valley University Monday evening.
A group of about 50 held candles in tiny plastic cups as they marched behind a bagpipe, honoring survivors and remembering loved ones who have died of domestic or intimate-partner violence.
Three such deaths in the last year have had ties to Utah County, advocates noted during a gathering in a classroom ahead of the vigil. The victims included Jill Lloyd, who was killed by Andrew Jed Larsen, the father of her child, as she sat in the middle of a West Jordan street in her car in June. He later killed himself.
Violence targeting loved ones “is no small thing in our county. It is no small thing on our campus,” said Susan Madsen, a UVU professor of management whose research focuses on women and leadership.
Each year, 169,000 intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes are committed against women, according to Utah Department of Health data from 2011, the most recent available. Intimate-partner violence pertains to relationships that do not necessarily involve marriage or living together.
The Monday gathering hosted by Orem's Center for Women and Children in Crisis comes as thousands of women have come forward as victims in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations spanning decades against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, posting "me too" across social media. The center said the national groundswell, in part, spurred the vigil.
Utah is not immune, but help is available.
Heather Wolsey, an advocate, noted police departments generally have victim advocates who can help figure out an escape plan — and victims don't have to file an official police report to meet with them.
That's in addition to hotlines that can give guidance to victims who feel physically and financially trapped by abusers in control of their lives and bank accounts, Wolsey said.4 comments on this story
Ten years into her marriage and with six kids, Wolsey and her husband maintained the veneer of a perfect family, she said, but all was not well. She left him, and in 2016, he was convicted of stalking and violating a protective order and sent to prison.
"I went through a lot of dark days," she said, but "we live in one of the most wonderful communities. There’s so many caring people that want to help."
She also had advice for what to do when friends disclose they're being abused.
"Believe them," Wolsey said. "Try and reach out and get them the help they need."
The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition hotline is 1(800)897-5465.