UVU Column: Tell someone, tell anyone, tell everyone 01
American Fork victim advocate Dawna Whiting records information about domestic violence for a joint project between the American Fork Police Department and Utah Valley University.

It’s time to talk about what nobody wants to talk about. It’s domestic violence, and most people don’t want to admit it has happened to them, a family member or close associate. Utah Valley University has partnered with American Fork to provide some help.

“Everyone wants to know the information, but not be branded as ‘My family has issues,’” said Darren Falslev, American Fork police chief.

“This all started back in 2016 when we had some incidents in the community,” he said. “There was a homicide near Walmart, a shooting at Fast Gas, and an incident in which at individual shot at one of our officers and shot out the window of his patrol car.”

Bobbi Kassel, the department chair for criminal justice at UVU, has known Falslev for many years. He is a graduate of the university’s criminal justice program and teaches some classes at UVU. He reached out to her for help.

“He felt like he needed to do something to help people in those situations,” Kassel said. “He felt the need to do something impactful.

“Oftentimes people who are victims of domestic violence are reluctant to reach out for help. He wanted to create something that we could post and make available to everyone so they would have the same information a police officer or victim’s advocate would give.”

Falslev said they decided to create a series of videos that could be seen anywhere a person could feel safe. With a grant from the UVU’s College of Health and Public Service, they produced three videos — one geared toward victims, one to family members, and one to teens.

“I have sent these out to all the police chiefs in the state of Utah,” Falslev said. “Every police department can put this on their website. Every citizen can look at this and see what is available for help. It is on UVU’s website. I have also put it all over social media and when I go to high schools to do presentations, the kids are starting to understand this stuff takes place at their level.”

In addition to her responsibilities as department chair, Kassel teaches classes in victimology at UVU and requires her students to do service-learning projects. For two semesters, her students did research and helped create the videos.

“It turned out one of my students is a domestic violence survivor,” Kassel said. “She was able to tell her story and be part of this production.”

Jacinta Stephens left her husband several times, but went back to him until she finally had had enough.

“I finally met someone who had gone through the same thing,” she said. “She kept telling me ‘This is not good for you. What about your kids?’ It took me probably a good year before I got the courage to finally actually say I was done and couldn’t take it anymore. Now this is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.”

Taking that first step was difficult for her and she wanted to help others through the video.

“If my story could help someone relate to it, that is what I was hoping for when I shared it,” she said.

Kassell said that was the purpose behind creating the messages.

“The whole goal behind putting these out there is that we just want people to know they are not alone,” she said. “We want them to know there is help for them. I know abuse thrives in secrecy. The more we can talk about this openly, the more we can combat this. Tell someone, tell anyone, tell everyone. The more they talk about it, the more empowered victims feel.”

There is progress, but the work is not yet complete, however.

“There is one more video we want to create,” Kassel said. “It is about the offenders, the person doing the abuse. It would show that there is help available for them, too. They might not even realize that what they are doing is abusive. It would help people realize they can get help to overcome this.”

UVU and the American Fork Police Department have a long history together and plan on it continuing.

“I think we are a great team — the law enforcement side and the educational side,” Kassel said. “I am proud to be a part of this. It is one of the very best projects I have work on at UVU.”

Anyone who wishes help for themselves or a loved one may contact the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition at 1-800-897-LINK.

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