Utah Valley University begins fall semester 04

File - Utah Valley University students walk to campus after being dropped off by the UVX bus on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

Utah Valley University will be hosting a conference on domestic violence, prevention, an increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and solutions on April 2.

The conference was started a few years ago and is held annually, but the 2020 event had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Scheduled every April, the conference was preparing for the event as the pandemic shut down the campus.

While last year’s event was postponed, many of the same speakers that were scheduled to speak are on the books for the 2021 event.

“We want to help provide training for those who are working with survivors, and also one of the main points of this is to let survivors know that we care and we are here,” said Sariah Collard, a member of the domestic violence conference planning committee, a crisis therapist and a victim’s navigator at UVU.

Topics of discussion at the conference include education for all levels of people who are working with survivors of domestic violence, but also education for the community in general. This education includes ways to spot the red flags of domestic violence, support loved ones who may be survivors and ways to see the signs.

Collard said some leading experts from the state will be on hand to support people and help train them, something they characterized as a very valuable experience.

“We each need to do our part to be informed about the signs of domestic violence so when we see it happening to our family, friends and neighbors, we can intervene and say something about it,” said Bobbi Kassel, department chair for the Criminal Justice Department at UVU, in a press release. “It is equally important to educate ourselves about the resources that are available to people in abusive relationships. Ultimately, we cannot make decisions for anyone else, but we can listen and offer support. It’s easier for people to leave an abusive relationship when there’s a community ready for care for them.”

On the topic of rising domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic, Collard said that her concerns have increased due to people not having a way to reach out because they are stuck with their perpetrators.

People may be able to reach out once again when it is safer to return to a more public lifestyle, and she added that an increase in people seeking services also may be seen.

Collard said people have to be mindful that people are experiencing domestic violence and she’s hoping that there may be a safe time for them to reach out going forward.

“During the pandemic, people can’t leave their homes, and so they are stuck with their perpetrator always,” Collard said. “That’s an extra added element to domestic violence, there is no brief escape. That’s been a difficult aspect.”

As for people looking to attend the conference, Collard said it will be a great opportunity to learn how to support a survivor or begin to support a survivor of domestic violence.

Along with the conference, April is sexual assault awareness month and the first Wednesday in April is, “Start By Believing Day,” a day for people to come together to support victims of sexual violence.

“This is a great way for people to learn how to start by believing,” Collard said. “Whatever kind of interpersonal violence it is, start by believing so you can start supporting the survivor in your life.”

The highlights of the conference for Collard involve Leslie Morgan Steiner, a New York Times best-selling author, the keynote speaker, and a plenary speaker Ali Crandall from BYU.

Collard also pointed people interested in learning more about domestic violence or looking for resources to www.startbybelieving.org, www.rainn.org, and www.thehotline.org.

To learn more about the UVU Conference on Domestic Violence, visit www.uvu.edu/chss/end_violence/.