Monday, October 15, 2018

Using Technology to Address Age-Old Problems of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Human Trafficking

Concerned about domestic violence statistics in my community, I recently opened a bill file with the Office of Legal Research and General Counsel to draft legislation that will help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

This bill expands on the effectiveness of the Safe UT app, which has successfully thwarted school violence, bullying and teen suicides.

Users of this new app will be able to connect with crisis counselors instantly and anonymously at the push of a button to chat online or by telephone. The counselors will provide a listening ear, of course, but beyond that they will be able to inform callers of all options available to them. The victims in these cases will then be able to make informed decisions and, just as importantly, control the cadence of events that follow.

These very personal crimes are under-reported for a variety of reasons: fear of reprisals from the perpetrator, fear that the victim will not be believed, feelings of guilt and shame that the victim "allowed" the crime to happen or used bad judgment in associating with the perpetrator, fear that the victim's life is so enmeshed with the perpetrator that if he is severely punished, she will effectively be punished also.

Domestic violence is rampant in our community and needs to end, because no one should live in fear. Domestic violence can be deadly. Two thirds of women in Utah who die by firearm are killed by their intimate partners - only 2% are killed by strangers.

The cost to implement this bill will be minimal, because the University of Utah created most of the technology required while building the state-of-the-art Safe UT app from the ground up. Consequently, this app will have a quicker roll-out, and it will not require an on-going licensing fee. Crisis counselors may be connected from other hotlines who specialize in sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. All data will be HIPPA-secure and PHI-protected, just like Safe UT data.

Some of the best aspects of this app are:

1) The victim can choose to remain anonymous. Studies show that victims will discuss intimate matters like sexual assault or domestic violence in an anonymous setting, like a Reddit page. It is sometimes easier to text questions and concerns than to use an emotional human voice.

2) The crisis counselor will be trained to listen and to clarify options. Victims often consult with their closest friends or family members, who may not know how to proceed.  They may even give bad advice. Crisis counselors can also advise victims about documenting their experiences and collecting evidence, which may be important in a future case.

3) The victim has control over the events that follow the chat or discussion on the app. If the victim is not ready to file a police report, she can simply call for information about collecting evidence, making an escape plan, etc. Anything that gives the victim a sense of control over her own destiny will help her going forward.

P.S. I tend to use male pronouns for perpetrators and female pronouns for victims, but I know that men can be victims as well. I also know that the vast, vast, vast majority of men are protectors, not perpetrators!
 

Friday, October 12, 2018

LOVE Is the Answer, Even in Politics

In eighth grade art class, we were assigned to make a poster using tempera paints. Mine was light blue with fluffy white clouds and the words: "LOVE IS THE ANSWER: WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?"

I've always believed that - and I still do.

Tonight I attended a gala, and the keynote speaker was Arthur Brooks, a conservative economist who has authored several books about happiness, poverty, and conservative philosophy, among other subjects. He is a devout Catholic and the married father of three children. His latest book and film will come out this spring.

His speech was absolutely inspiring. I felt compelled to come home and share my notes on my web site - to share the message he had for all of us tonight. It's a message that our country needs right now. So here are some of the thoughts I scribbled onto a folded envelope as he spoke:

Brooks said that contempt is the biggest problem in America today. He defined contempt as the conviction of the utter worthlessness of another human being. Contempt is observed in marriage therapy whenever someone rolls his/her eyes, expresses disdain, or uses sarcasm. Contempt is rife in social media with vitriolic comments. It's manifest as polarization in the electorate. It's everywhere in Washington, D.C.

Brooks said that civility and tolerance are too low a standard. "If I told you that my spouse and I were civil with each other, or that my wife tolerates me, what would you conclude?" We need something bigger than civility and bigger than tolerance -- we need LOVE.

It takes a strong person to love another human being who is full of contempt. He shared an experience to illustrate this idea. He wrote a book years ago that sold very few copies, and several months later received a hateful email from someone who had read it and disagreed with every point. This person took the time to write a 5,000 word letter detailing everything he hated about the book. When Brooks received the email, he read it start to finish, the heat of anger rising in his chest. He decided to write the guy back, but rather than defending himself or expressing his own vitriol, he simply thanked the guy for reading his book so carefully and writing to share his thoughts. Brooks was actually so thankful that someone had read his book, that gratitude was his overwhelming emotion. Fifteen minutes later, the emailer wrote back to say, "If you're ever in Dallas, we should go to dinner." Brooks had made a friend out of an enemy simply by responding to him with love and appreciation instead of mutual contempt.

Brooks called for a new revolution in America of answering hate with love.

A professor by trade, he gave us three challenges:

  1. Refuse to be used by powerful people who want to polarize us for their own gain - people even on your own side who are pushing you to hate more. 
  2. Seek out and confront contempt. Go where you are not invited. Listen carefully and respond with love. You don't have to change your position at all or back away from your principles in the least, but you do have to love. 
  3. Get serious about gratitude, if you want to be a happier person. 


Arthur Brooks concluded by saying:

DON'T DISAGREE LESS - JUST LOVE MORE! 
DO THAT AND AMERICA WILL COME BACK. 

And I think he's right. On Sept. 12, 2001 we felt love for all Americans, but we have rarely felt it since. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Campaigning: Not As Easy As It Looks, But Good and Necessary

A reporter called me this morning to ask about my campaign, and I told him campaigning isn't as easy as it looks!

But as I do it, I see its value and importance. Being a legislator is mostly an indoors job. Politicians are famous for doing a lot of talking and attending a lot of meetings and events.

Campaigning gets legislators and would-be legislators outside, meeting with non-politicians to find out what their thoughts and concerns are. What do they like about government, and what can government do better?

That's why campaigning, though difficult at times, is absolutely essential to the political process. It's part of being accountable to the people we represent.

Campaigning is about approaching and being approachable. It's about listening, making friends and gaining the trust of constituents you hope to represent for two full years.

Campaigning is invigorating! Knowing what constituents really want is empowering!

Here is the ad I posted today to Facebook:


Ballots are in our mailboxes! Vote for FREEDOM from over-taxation, over-regulation, federal over-reach, and too much government oversight of our private lives in general. Vote for CIVILITY. Vote for respecting the WORTH AND DIGNITY of every individual and family in our district and in our state.  http://cherylacton.cherylacton.com



Sunday, September 30, 2018

Touring the Humanitarian Center and the St. Vincent De Paul Homeless Center (9/13/18)

Speaker of the House Greg Hughes spoke to our group about the legislature's efforts to improve the homeless situation in Salt Lake City. 
When the Utah legislature hosted the 13 western states for the Conference of State Governments, participants could select among four tours and I chose the refugee and homeless tour. We started by going to the LDS Humanitarian Center to see where many refugees are employed and receive English lessons. Speaker Hughes joined our tour there and spoke to us on our way over to the Rio Grande area, where we toured the St. Vincent de Paul Center next door to the shelter. It was great to see all of the services available to the homeless and to meet many of the great people who work there. St. Vincent's is also known as "the soup kitchen," so if you've ever served a meal to the homeless, it was probably there.

At St. Vincent de Paul, they receive a lot of clothing that they give away, but they reserve the best stuff to outfit people who are meeting up with long lost family members or going to job interviews.


The Future of Food: From Farm to Fork at the Utah Farm Bureau (9-18-18)

Panelists discussing various aspects of Utah agriculture at the Utah Farm Bureau

This was an interesting all-day conference about agriculture in Utah and the future of food. The first speaker was a publisher of all kinds of food industry magazines. He talked about an amazing array of trends with food right now, things that weren't even on the horizon five or ten years ago, like the emergence of kale and quinoa, the gradual decline of the gluten-free craze, and the increasing demand for meal kits. (I could go on and on! I filled an entire page with notes on this subject alone.) 

The next speaker was fascinating, though initially I thought I might tune him out. Ethan Brown owns a business called Beyond Meat, and he is trying to create simulated beef that is better than beef itself. He showed an interesting graphic of how much of the planet is occupied by human beings, followed by a slide that includes how much is occupied by people's cattle and pets. His point was that as the population of human beings grows, the number of livestock will have to decrease. He also talked about how medical science is concluding that red meat is not healthy for our bodies. We will need alternatives, he said, but we want to have the deliciousness of meat. In the laboratories of Beyond Meat they are getting close. One man in the room (not a plant, by the way, but a local hospital chef - a guy who looked like he enjoys a good burger quite frequently) said he loves their products. He thinks they are delicious, but expensive. The price point will have to come down if Beyond Meat is going for more market share. 

The CEO of Harmons Grocery Stores spoke about competing in his very competitive business. Once Smiths starting matching coupons like Walmart (a while ago), Harmons could no longer compete for low prices, so they decided to compete in other areas, like trimmed meats, artisan breads, and fine cheeses. They send their bakers to San Francisco to learn bread-making and a cheese expert goes to Europe every year to buy cheeses. Creating a niche has worked well for them. 

A man representing the cherry industry in Utah said it is difficult for cherries to compete with cranberries because cherries have pits - I'd never thought of that! Actually, I had never thought about cherries and cranberries having to compete at all, but I guess they do. The things you learn! 





Friday, September 21, 2018

Constitution Day Conference on the Future of Federalism at UVU (and the Magnificent Roots of Knowledge windows there)

This was my favorite panel visually from the Roots of Knowledge permanent exhibit. 



Utah Valley University and Oxford - THE Oxford - are not known to collaborate on many things, but they work together on the Quill Project, which is seeking to create a database to house all negotiated documents (constitutions, treaties, alliances, etc.) and the debates and writings pertaining to each.

The Utah Constitution is already in the database, and the U.S. Constitution with all of its associated Federalist papers, etc. Dr. Nicholas Cole of Oxford's Pembroke College started the Quill Project and now brings UVU students over to study abroad at Oxford. Two of these American students spoke at the conference about things that have learned and observed about the Constitution while compiling documents.

Dr. Cole was our keynote speaker at lunch in the magnificent Roots of Knowledge room. Another scholar who came to speak at the conference was visiting from Stanford. We began the day talking about the Constitution at the time of its founding, then moved on to the intervening years, culminating in a discussion of the future of the Constitution.

Several legislators were there and asked excellent questions about states' rights and whether or not the Constitution permits states to redress wrongs perpetrated by the federal government (hot issues right now in Utah, where two thirds of our land is federally owned and - some would say - mismanaged.)

[The Roots of Knowledge panorama of stained glass lives up to the hype, as I knew it would. It depicts the events and people that shaped humankind. The artists who created it are Tom Holdman and Cameron Oscarson. A London curator described the 80 panel piece as a "tour de force." Worth a special trip to UVU!]

This panel clearly depicts historically significant figures like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. 
I thought this panel was interesting, because you do not often see a stained glass window about the 1960s.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Speaking on a Panel at the Women in Politics Meeting While Attending the Conference of State Governments - West at Snowbird (Utah Hosting)

The scenery just beyond the lodge. 
Every 13 years, Utah hosts CSG West and invites the other 12 states in the organization to come discuss policy and legislation in our fair state. This year the event is being held at Snowbird, and it's beautiful up there despite the 18-day draught. We have people attending from as far away as Manchester, England and Newfoundland, Canada.

I was asked to be part of a small panel at the Women in Politics forum, the very first meeting of the event. After an opening question about quotas, which all of us admitted would probably not be a good idea, we spent most of the time trying to figure out how to make politics more appealing to women. The moderator, former Utah Senator Pat Jones, asked each of us what our dream would be for women  in politics in the future.

I said my dream would be that women could overcome fear. I used myself as an example. I was afraid of the contentious nature of politics. I was afraid that my accomplishments (many of which are more traditional family sort of accomplishments) would not stack up against another candidate with a long corporate resume, for example. I was especially afraid of the scrutiny and criticism that would inevitably come with political life. Then I happily reported that all of my fears were unfounded. The Utah legislature is not particularly contentious (perhaps because we are quite lopsided when it comes to party representation), my accomplishments have been respected, and I have not faced any withering criticism - at least not yet. (I do have very, very thick skin.) If women knew that these things they are afraid of are nothing to be afraid of at all, I think more of them would run for office.

Kris Cox from the Utah Governor's Office is a very impressive leader and innovator. She is also blind. I'll have to share more of what she taught us in another post.

Today I attended a speech about maximizing work performance and a very detailed meeting about NAFTA, where I learned a lot about its effects on Canada and Mexico. Canada is Utah's 3rd most prominent country to export to, and Mexico is Utah's 5th, so Utah will be affected if the US steps out of the agreement, as President Trump has threatened to do. There are a lot of behind the scenes discussions underway to hold the agreement together for a possible win-win-win.

Some of these meetings can be pretty dry, but they definitely bring in the experts to teach us, which is a good thing.