#MeToo town hall: Sexual assault a ‘human issue, not a female issue’

Community members during the #MeToo town hall in St. George, Utah, June 27, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Before opening the floor to those in the room, Laurie Hofmann shared her own #MeToo story.

As 20 people gathered in the St. George Library Wednesday evening for the first #MeToo town hall in St. George, Hofmann, the board chair for Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told those in the room that she was raped at the age of 21.

Laurie Hofmann, board chair for the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, shares her rape story during a #MeToo town hall, June 27, 2018, St. George, Utah | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

“I never reported my assault because I was ashamed and convinced it was my fault,” she said. “If only I had not been wearing the outfit I was wearing. If only I had not gone to that campus party. If only I had not been alone with a boy. If only I had screamed and fought harder.”

After Hofmann shared her story, others began to share their stories and offer insight on how to solve the problem. Having better sex education, teaching consent, getting politicians involved in the movement and standing up against perpetrators were some of the topics discussed at the town hall.

Women in the room thanked the three men who came to the town hall, saying it’s vital they’re a part of the movement as well.

This is a human issue,” Hofmann said, “not a female issue.”

Some in the room said the conversation of sexual harassment, sexual violence and sexual assault needs to happen in the home, while others said it needs to begin in schools with sex education.

“We need to be providing education a lot sooner,” one woman said.

Another woman, who acknowledged she experienced sexual assault, said parents need to be having these conversations with their children.

“My son said to me, ‘Are all men jerks?'” the woman said. “It just broke my heart, like no they’re not.”

Those in attendance also discussed how to get local law enforcement and politicians involved in the #MeToo movement. Some of those solutions included writing personal letters and emails to politicians and engaging with city leaders.

One woman said the movement is not enough to change society unless law enforcement does its part to protect victims of sexual assault. She also said in order to better help victims of sexual assault, St. George residents need to keep track of who they’re putting into office.

During the course of the town hall, people expressed their gratitude toward the #MeToo movement.

This whole #MeToo movement is a start,” one woman said.

After a person asked Hofmann if there would be another #MeToo town hall in St. George, she said that decision was up to the people in the room. The night ended with a woman offering to write down everyone’s email in hopes of creating a group in St. George to keep the conversation of sexual assault going.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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