This week, we profile some profoundly important recent organizing in Provo, Utah on domestic violence and sexual assault. Living Room Conversations are being integrated into this program as a tool in the CourtWatch program.
To learn more, I interviewed CourtWatch founder Becca Kearl who is also our national Conversation Facilitation Partner. She responded:
The objectives of CourtWatch are
- Train volunteers to observe and collect data in all court proceedings dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Data will give us a clearer picture of what is happening in the court system.
- Increase awareness and willingness to engage in conversations around these issues. Before our 100 volunteers sit in the courtroom, they complete training that includes a custom Living Room Conversation on Community. Our hope is that there will be a ripple effect of awareness and understanding that will impact societal norms. (Utah’s rates of each targeted crime is above the national average.)
We use Living Room Conversations to engage and invite the community to be part of the change. At our event in March we reached out to local agencies already working on domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse to give a six-minute presentation on what is happening and what they wished the community understood. I’m hoping to open doors to agencies who want to do their own events in the future, and we are also looking to do smaller Conversations with volunteers, and encourage volunteers to do their own Living Room Conversations. We survey our volunteers quarterly and measure their levels of civic engagement, understanding and trust of the court system, and number of conversations they’ve had around these topics.
The #metoo movement highlighted a lot of assumptions the public has about the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as assumptions we have about the courts and how they handle these cases. By having trained volunteers in the courts, we have access to data we can use to celebrate what the courts do well and improvements that could be made. What we’re doing addresses the issues in two ways: policy recommendations for potential changes in the courts, and an increase in awareness in the community about these issues. If a community understands trauma and how common these crimes are, and knows how to support victims, we amplify the efforts of individual agencies.
In case readers would like to use the custom Community Living Room Conversation you created, what are the questions unique to it?
The Round 1 (introduction) question:
“In one breath, introduce yourself to your group (name and what brought you here tonight). Do you have anyone in your life who has had an experience with domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse? There is no need or expectation to disclose details.
The Round 2 (topic) questions:
- What does it mean to belong to a community? Who do you see as being part of your community?
- Have you ever felt forgotten or excluded from a sense of community? What impact did it have on you?
- Do you feel any sense of duty or responsibility to be aware of or understand issues like domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse? Where does that feeling, or lack of it, come from?
- In what ways do the community and the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse impact each other?
- What role, if any, would you like to see the community take in regards to these issues?
Thank you for your enthusiasm for our work–and helping promote and share it ever more widely! And thanks to readers and new donors David and Benson for their support as they signed up for online Conversations on Eventbrite.
Beth G. Raps, PhD