MSUB to host statewide summit on sex assault

2014-08-01T13:15:00Z 2014-12-10T16:30:09Z MSUB to host statewide summit on sex assaultBy ZACH BENOIT The Billings Gazette

Montana State University Billings will host a statewide summit on sexual assault in September.

The third annual Not In Our State summit will be held Sept. 19 and 20 in Billings and is sponsored by the Phoenix Center, MSUB’s advocacy program for victims of sexual violence.

Triniti Halverson, a health educator and student health services victims advocate at the Phoenix Center, said it will draw hundreds of people from across Montana to Billings and that MSUB’s proactive approach to sex assault issues makes it a good fit for hosting duties.

“Really, in our community, this topic hits home with everything that happened last summer,” she said, referring to the high-profile case of serial rapist Toby Griego, who was sentenced to 22 consecutive life terms in prison in July for attacking four women. “I think people are familiar with MSUB being involved in this issue and I would hope that people walk away with more tools on how to respond to and support a survivor, more access to the resources that are out there and also know that at MSUB, we take this seriously and want our students and community to be safe and supported.”

The summit will include numerous workshops and breakout sessions for different groups, including law enforcement, administrators and those who might respond to sexual violence, as well as on prevention and programming.

It will also feature intensive training on sexual assault-related topics with experts and professionals from around Montana.

Heather Imrie, director of program development at Catharsis Productions, is this year’s keynote speaker. Catharsis is a group that aims to prevent interpersonal violence.

Imrie has developed and presented intervention training on topics such as sex assault. stalking, domestic violence and victim blaming to military, school, crisis and other groups around the country, something Halverson said made her an appealing choice for the keynote speaker.

“The diverse background that she has —she’s worked with our armed forces and a lot of institutions and has a community background and on-campus background — brings a lot,” she said. “Her ability to kind of connect all the dots, to bring all of those things together, is what I like about her.”

Halverson said that it’s also appropriate for a university to host the summit given a number of recent high-profile sex assault cases on campuses and reports from the U.S. government on campus sexual assaults and how schools should deal with them.

“I really appreciate our campus’ response in kind of being set in the foreground on this issue,” she said. “We’re putting something out there and we’re going to support and help our students and the community.”

Registration for the summit begins on Aug. 15. For more information, call 657-2157 or visit the event’s website.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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