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Local experts say violence against women and girls is an underrreported problem in Utah, and an upcoming forum will examine ways to address the issue.

The Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project, in conjunction with USU Extension, is sponsoring the virtual Spring Women’s Leadership Forum, “Stopping Violence Against Utah Girls and Women.” The free event will be from noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, and registration is required.

Studies show that 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18 in the United States, which is an estimated 42 million girls and women. Unfortunately, Utah ranks well above the national average for violence against girls and women, and it remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it, according to event organizers. Survivors often keep the abuse a secret for many years, and most don’t talk about it until adulthood.

Susan Madsen, founding director of the UWLP and moderator for the event, said survivors carry the weight of their abuse in different ways, but many have struggles.

“These can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, panic attacks, addiction, learning difficulties, chronic pain and unhealthy relationships,” she said.

Madsen and other panelists will present research and data as they discuss the realities of this topic.

“Ending violence against women is everyone’s business,” she said. “Join us to learn how you can support survivors and how you can do your part to protect girls and women from violence and sexual abuse.”

To register for the forum, visit Violence (URL is case-sensitive).

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