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Visualizing change, resisting violence

An interdisciplinary team of scholars seeks to increase public recognition of gender-based violence.

The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Consortium at the University of Utah is holding a daylong symposium on April 16 called “Visualizing Change, Resisting Violence,” featuring experts from across the country. The symposium will be preceded the night before (April 15) by an evening of artistic representation of the female experience.

An interdisciplinary team of scholars representing multiple colleges across campus, the GBV Consortium has the vision to increase public recognition of and deepen public knowledge about this type of violence. The event will be the first of its kind for the U community.

“This symposium is an invitation to be in dialogue about our strategies and practices, an opportunity to envision the leadership in every single one of us, and space to heal together,” said Annie Isabel Fukushima, a professor of ethnic studies in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation and the project owner of the GBV Consortium.

Communities, Fukushima said, are visualizing change and resisting violence through grassroots organizing and structural change. She said there is so much to learn about when it comes to sexual violence—from the death feminicidios in Mexico, to the Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls & Two-Spirit across the Americas, to the murder of predominantly Asian massage parlor workers in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We have emerged in a moment where the #metoo movement has made discussing sexual violence more a part of public discourse,” Fukushima said. “In spite of this shift, there are many voices left out and silenced, with sexual violence ongoing.”

Dr. Heather C. Melton, an associate professor in sociology and director of criminology at the U, will be presenting her research on sexual assault kits in Utah. She worked with a team to submit all previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits and created a database with the characteristics of those victims, offenders and the circumstances around those cases.

“Sexual violence is so prevalent that everyone knows someone who has been impacted by sexual violence,” Melton said. “If they think they do not know anyone, I would argue that is because a large proportion of people who experience sexual violence do not disclose their experiences.”

Melton will also be a panelist on one of the symposium’s four major panels—Documenting Violence. She said that although students at the U often express worries about stranger sexual assault, that is rarely the situation.

“We really do need to do more on what we can and should be doing about preventing and intervening in sexual violence that occurs between people who know each other,” Melton said. “Efforts at documenting sexual violence have informed us of this and we need to listen to that.”

The event the night before the panels and presentations at the symposium will be a collection of works written by Utah writers and performed by local actors. Diane Lê Strain, M.Ed. candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy is the co-director of the event. She said one of the main intentions of the event is to use writing and performance to hear the stories of women that are often unheard, finding universal truths in all of them.

“Theatrical performances and storytelling can exist to create a lot of empathy, and then you can understand people a little better and advocate for social change,” Lê Strain said. “We are aiming to honor all women and women-identifying people. These stories share common themes of joy and pain, violence, love and family.”

The research team at the GBV Consortium received a One U for Utah (IU4U) grant last year to collect data in order to create a visual map of gender-based violence in Utah since 1994 when the Violence Against Women Act was passed.

Gender Based Violence Symposium: “Visualizing Change, Resisting Violence”

April 15 | 5-7 p.m.

April 16 | 9:45 a.m.-5 p.m.

Register here in advance or on the day.