Portraits of Peace House History: Community Awareness and Prevention Education

Candlelight Vigil 
Park City’s Main Street, 2012

This year marks 25 years of Peace House serving survivors of family violence and abuse in Summit and Wasatch counties through shelter, support services, education and outreach. As part of our 25th Anniversary Year, each month we are spotlighting some of the many individuals who have shaped Peace House history. Throughout the year, we will be honoring and commemorating all those who have supported the life-saving and life-changing work that Peace House has offered our community over the past 25 years.

The 1992 Articles of Incorporation for Domestic Peace Task Force (DPTF) state that one of the organization’s purposes is “to provide public awareness, consultation, and educational services to individuals, groups, courts, organizations and agencies.” True to those original intentions, the organization that would later be known as Peace House hosted the first community awareness event in the winter of 1992. (Portraits of Peace House: Jean Paulson and Linda Hathaway) The forum served to raise awareness and shed light on the pervasive reality of domestic violence and abuse in the community. Debra Daniels, who ran the YWCA’s Women’s Shelter in Salt Lake City, presented at the event and expressed a commitment to “doing as much as we can to educate people in our community around the severity of [domestic violence].” [1] For twenty-five years Peace House has been raising awareness in the community through events, presentations, and educational curricula in schools, while collaborating with community partners to directly serve the most vulnerable. 

Teri Orr, a founding member of DPTF, explained the importance of raising awareness in the following way: “Any time we shine a light in dark corners, it helps people move out of them.” [2] (Portraits of Peace House: Teri Orr) Betsy Ricks, a prevention and awareness educator at Peace House (2007-2017), organized education programs throughout the Wasatch and Summit school districts for ten years and witnessed Teri Orr’s philosophy at work first hand. Ricks explains that “the more we discuss and normalize the conversation around [interpersonal violence], we can just talk about it. Then when kids are faced with it, they can say ‘this is what they are talking about’ and seek help.” Betsy recalls one teen approaching her after a dating violence prevention class at the high school who explained that, after hearing the presentation, she realized that Betsy was describing her friend’s dating relationship. Because of Betsy’s presentation, the girl was able to recognize the signs of abuse and felt equipped to have a discussion with her friend. Stressing the importance of education, Betsy argues that “in order to end cycles of violence, we need to educate kids about what is dangerous. We have to let them know what makes them more vulnerable and at risk, and help them to see the differences between what do healthy relationships look like, and what do unhealthy relationships look like.”

Prevention Education Programs in Local Schools

Peace House has been providing prevention education in the Wasatch and Summit school districts since the late 1990s. The first Peace House Education and Outreach Coordinator was Erin Kemp, who moved to Park City in her early twenties. She had a social work background and was hired to raise awareness in the community and to develop an education program to be implemented in the local schools. In 1998 Erin developed a curriculum with the help of a licensed therapist, Betsy Ross, who was also employed by Peace House. Their collaboration resulted in a curriculum titled H.O.P.E. (Healthy Options for Peace through Education). Park City High School was the first school district to receive Erin in the classroom and she remembers that the school was “really open to us coming in, talking about setting healthy boundaries,” and discussing safe relationships with the students. 

In 1999 Erin began working with elementary schools in Wasatch County. She was trained by Prevent Child Abuse Utah in the K-5 Grade curriculum titled “Good Touch, Bad Touch.” The leadership in the Wasatch school district told Erin that she would have their support in educating elementary school students if she would first speak with the parents and help them feel comfortable with the curriculum. South Summit school district followed suit, and offered her the same opportunity with the condition of parent approval. Erin presented at parent open houses and was happy to find parents were very supportive. Erin felt that the age-appropriate curriculum was “great in giving children language so that they could ask their parents about something that was uncomfortable for them.” 

Erin recalls surprise at the number of disclosures that followed her presentations in classrooms. As children learned the difference between good touch and bad touch in her presentations, some of the students would spontaneously share a “yucky feeling” they had experienced. These experiences may have felt normal to the children, but were not safe behaviors. At these disclosures, Erin would acknowledge the child’s experience and feelings but quickly proceed with the class discussion to avoid re-traumatizing the student. She would then follow up with the child at the end of class, with the teacher or school counselor present in the classroom, and then turn over the disclosure to the school. Erin would provide school administrators with contact information for the Peace House Victim Advocates at the time, Jean Paulson and Jeannie Edens. Erin describes both Jean and Jeannie, who originally worked for Domestic Peace Task Force and then went on to work at Summit County’s Justice Center supporting all victims of crime, as “absolutely amazing and on call 24/7.”

Jean Paulson and Jeannie Edens were deeply respected in their local communities of Wasatch and Summit counties and had established partnerships with schools, law enforcement, and support networks. They were able to provide direction and support to any of Erin’s referred students and their families. Once Peace House was licensed to provide clinical therapy in 2015, the organization was also able to offer therapeutic counseling to any children and/or their families affected by abuse. Cynthia Sandoval, a Peace House child advocate and licensed therapist, describes therapy as a deeply impactful service, and as flexible in providing therapy and support to families at the most convenient location, be that at the school or at the Peace House clinical therapy offices.

Expanding Education and Awareness Programs in Local Middle and High Schools

Erin Kemp acknowledges that the opportunity to provide prevention education in the schools depended on developing relationships with the school principals and superintendents. Through various approval processes, Domestic Peace Task Force educators began teaching in high schools and then branched out to teach in the elementary schools. By the time Erin left the organization in 2001, Peace House did not yet have a curriculum suitable to middle school students. Creating a curriculum for a group of children more mature than elementary school students, but not yet in dating relationships, presented a challenge. It wasn’t until Christina Sally came to Peace House as an educator in 2004, and contributed her experience as an education specialist in law enforcement, that Peace House was able to develop a curriculum for middle school students. Christina created the S.A.F.E. (Safety And Facts Education) curriculum, a course spanning several days designed to educate junior high students on “empathy, anti-bullying, avoiding risky behaviors, internet safety.” Christina led S.A.F.E. discussions in several middle schools where administrators had lent their approval. The investment of school leadership has continued to be critical to the success of Peace House awareness initiatives, as there is no state mandate to provide prevention education to school students. 

Peace House has led the charge in providing prevention education in the four school districts of Summit and Wasatch counties during the past twenty years. Marcela Montemurro, who would become Executive Director of DPTF in 2000 after eleven years at the YWCA, developed a curriculum for teens with Debra Daniels. (Portraits of Peace House: Peace House, Est. 1995) Montemurro introduced a program called PACT to the high schools in Summit and Wasatch counties based on training teens in having conversations among their peers on dating violence. Pepe Grimaldo, Betsy Ricks, Amy Watts, Leisa Mukai, and other Peace House educators have expanded and developed the high school curriculum for years and currently teach a two-day class called Healthy Relationships and Bystander Intervention in all schools. In order to reach elementary aged students, Peace House educators have consistently taught from the Prevent Child Abuse Utah curriculum, but recently updated the curriculum with “Safer Smarter Kids,” which is a more media-based program that allows for better student engagement through remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Peace House has always strived to find the best, age-appropriate ways to engage children in conversations and interventions that keep children and their families safe. 

In 2015 Peace House introduced a club called End Violence Now (EVN) to engage students at Park City High School. The Peace House educator Whitney Leavitt oversaw the formation of the club and it was met by enthusiasm from Park City High School students. The EVN club has been operating for six years now and has both educated students on issues of interpersonal violence and equipped students to raise awareness among their peers and in their communities. Leisa Mukai, the current Peace House Director of Prevention and Education, holds weekly meetings with the club members and praises the impact of the students’ “Purple Pinky Campaign,” which began in 2018 and is now held each year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The idea behind the campaign is for students to paint their finger the color of domestic violence awareness, purple, and then “share key facts about domestic violence” when asked about their purple pinkies. Leisa was impressed the campaign caught the attention of both the South and North Summit superintendents who adopted the “purple pinkies.” Leisa comments, “like all successful grassroots campaigns, the reach is often surprising!” [3]

In 2014, Utah House Bill 286 was passed and mandated that all school personnel and parents or guardians of elementary school students should receive child sexual abuse prevention and awareness training, to be implemented by the 2016-17 school year. The bill specified that “while not required by law, a school district or charter may [also] provide training to K-6 students.” The bill signified an important step for the State of Utah in requiring that parents and educators participate in prevention education and Peace House stepped in to provide the necessary training in schools. [4] Betsy Ricks recalls the incredible impact of the Peace House training as evident in the experience of one teacher who attended an annual training. The teacher shared with Betsy how the training enabled her to identify a child in one of her classes who was in danger. Despite harassment from the family of the child, the community, and the school, the teacher stood firm in her conviction and ultimately saved the life of the child.

Peace House Community Partners

Peace House is part of the State’s Domestic Violence Coalition, as well as that of Summit and Wasatch counties. The coalitions bring together important community partners who support vulnerable community members affected by trauma. Peace House is able to offer these community partners domestic violence training that empowers service providers and organizations to identify warning signs, follow best practices in victims services, and refer survivors to Peace House and other relevant community entities. The coalitions collaborate with the Health Department, health care providers, and community partners like the police departments and victim advocates, to pool and provide expertise and insight on trauma-informed victim services. In addition, Peace House partners with mental health care providers and is part of a coalition through CONNECT Summit County that refers individuals to behavioral health providers. The community partners share clients and provide valuable training opportunities for each other, such as QPR (Question Persuade Refer) training which is designed to prevent suicide. 

Peace House participates in a coalition organized through Communities That Care, which is centered around supporting the mental health of students and promoting healthy relationships in the local school districts. Each year Peace House provides healthy relationship presentations to K-12 students and child abuse training to educators and guardians of elementary and secondary school children. Last year, the Peace House prevention and awareness team reached more than 10,000 students and educators. Pepe Grimaldo is a Spanish speaking legal advocate at Peace House who works in the Latinx communities to provide support groups in Spanish and ensure equal access to safety, legal advice, and mental health resources. Peace House program directors have collaborated  with the Children’s Justice Center and the Rape Recovery Center, raising awareness and referring clients to each other as needed. Peace House has a valuable and ongoing relationship with law enforcement that includes offering support and training to best serve victims in crisis. For example, Peace House provides training on the Lethality Assessment Protocol, which assists police officers in identifying survivors of family abuse, evaluating risk levels, and directing victims to resources. (See Portraits of Peace House: Mary Ford.)

Raising Community Awareness

“We have tendrils out into our community in many different ways,” says Leisa Mukai, the current Peace House Director of Prevention and Education. Peace House has an intentional and widespread outreach strategy and seeks to educate at every point of connection in the community. A creative example of Peace House outreach efforts is a program called CUT IT OUT. [5] The program involves providing education to hair stylists in salons all over the state. Peace House educators have equipped stylists to recognize warning signs and then safely refer a client to domestic violence resources. Peace House has also been working with massage therapists who are in a similar position to recognize signs of abuse and direct clients to support services. Most recently, Peace House educators are offering a course to the public for anyone interested in violence prevention, including a 10 part series offered  by “The Compass”, which offers community education to all ages in the community. The Peace House commitment to prevention education has remained consistent for twenty-five years, and is always evolving and adapting to community needs. Peace House understands that the best way to ultimately break the cycle of abuse is through prevention education and early intervention. 

Under the direction of Jane Patten, Peace House hosted a national awareness raising event called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in 2014. The event was a local manifestation of the international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence that began in 2001. The title of the march is referencing the old adage that you cannot understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. In solidarity with women, and to bring attention to the cause, men squeeze their feet into women’s heels and walk a mile, while engaging the community in social justice concerns like “sex and gender biases, gender identity, gender relations, and men’s sexualized violence.” [6] Peace House has traditionally hosted the men’s march on the last Sunday of August every year and been proud to include many of Park City’s local firemen, police officers, and City and County officials sporting high heels in solidarity. Each year a gentleman from Oklahoma can be spotted marching in his plaid platform heels and plaid kilt. The Peace House march is just one of many stops on his Walk a Mile in Her Shoes tour across the country. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence instituted and observed the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October of 1987. Governor Norm Bangerter would later officially adopt October as a Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989 as a designated time to “promote awareness, encourage reporting [and] provide safety for victims.” [7] On October 5, 1987, Becky Richards organized and held the first Candlelight Vigil at the Park City Library. [8] Becky was a registered nurse and part of an early local task force addressing spousal abuse. Becky’s mother-in-law would become one of the founding members of the Domestic Peace Task Force in the early 1990s. (See Portraits of Peace House, Evelyn Richards) The vigil in 1987 honored the lives lost to domestic violence during the year. The event was one of many during the month of October that shed light on the issue of spousal abuse and raised awareness around resources available to victims. Most available support and resources were located outside of the community at the time. 

Once Peace House was established in 1995, the organization would use the month of October to bring awareness to the emergency shelter and the other free support services offered in the community to survivors of domestic violence. Available Peace House services would come to include: case management, support groups, legal advocacy, victim advocacy, and clinical therapy. Each October Peace House would take the opportunity to spotlight staggering domestic violence statistics. For instance, studies show that one in three women in Utah is affected by domestic violence in her lifetime and that the number one cause of female homicide in the state is intimate partner violence. Peace House has hosted a variety of events throughout the years to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 1997, Peace House held an art contest in the elementary schools with the theme “A World With No Violence.” [9] In 2004, Peace House filled 104 purple balloons (purple is the designated color for domestic violence awareness) to symbolize the 104 protective orders issued that year. The balloons were released outside the Egyptian Theater on Main Street in Park City while the South Summit High School choir sang. 

Peace House has hosted many candlelight vigils at different locations throughout Summit and Wasatch counties over the past twenty-five years. This past year, due to COVID-19, the vigil was held virtually. Every vigil has been marked by a certain solemnity as participants recognize and commemorate the lives lost throughout the year. Becky Richards recounts the sense of unity at some of the later vigils she attended on Main Street in Park City: “Beginning at the Wasatch Brew Pub, we would walk down Main Street carrying candles. As we walked, women would come out of the bars and walk with us. Men would come out and applaud and offer words of encouragement. One of the children of Patty Blanchard came, [Emery], and walked with Mary Ford.” Mary Ford was a detective with the Park City Police Department for thirty years and had become a close friend of the Blanchard children, whose mother was murdered by their father in 1995, shortly after Peace House opened. (Portraits of Peace House: Mary Ford) Mary remembers the vigils as organic and moving as people came together from different parts of the community and walked together for a common cause. 

Peace House efforts in raising awareness extend to all the fundraisers organized to benefit Peace House and support domestic violence prevention and education. For instance, Peace House has participated in the Park City Film Series at the Jim Santy Auditorium to highlight issues like interpersonal violence, and in local events like the Luxury Home Tour. For twenty years, the Park City Board of Realtors hosted the Luxury Home Tour and the proceeds from their annual event were allocated in support of Peace House services. Their immense generosity and partnership provided an ideal opportunity for the Peace House direct service staff to interface with the community and share more about what they do and the services they provide. Every fundraiser and community event over the years has contributed to the Peace House mission by raising awareness, and sometimes funds, to break the cycle of family violence and abuse.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It impacts every race, gender, socio-economic strata, and political or religious affiliation. We cannot stop domestic violence without addressing it directly. To quote the earliest Peace House educator Erin Kemp, “the most important thing for people to realize is that domestic violence is an issue for everyone. It crosses all boundaries and if it is not happening to you, it may be happening to someone you know.” [10] Through the tireless efforts of Peace House and our community partners, we have helped bring the issue of domestic violence out of the shadows and into the light. As we continue to educate our youth and community on safe and healthy relationships, while offering support to survivors experiencing abuse, we are breaking the cycle of abuse.

Researched and written by Karen Marriott

Edited by Lisa Jackson

1* Debra Daniels in Utah Daily Chronicle

2* Vagina Monologues

3* End Violence Now Blog

4* Utah House Bill 286 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training

5* Cut It Out: The Beauty Community Against Domestic Abuse

6*  Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

7* Domestic Violence Awareness Month

8* Becky Richards in the Park Record

9* Domestic Peace Task Force in Park Record

10* Erin Kemp in the Park Record

Rachel Packer, Education Director (2001-2003). End Violence Now group from Park City High School. Pepe Grimaldo and Christina Sally, former Outreach and Education Coordinators. First Spring Luncheon, 2010.  One Billion Rising Group at Park City High School, 2014. County Law Enforcement at Walk-A-Mile, 2013. Shad Sorenson, South Summit School District Superintendent sporting purple pinkies as part of the End Violence Now “Purple Pinky Campaign”, 2019. End Violence Now Group at Park CIty High School with Leisa Mukai, current Director of Prevention and Education at Peace House. Betsy Ricks, Prevention and Awareness Educator (2007-2017), with a student from Treasure  Mountain Middle School for Peace House, 2014. Candlelight Vigil, Park City, 2010.  Deer Valley Volunteers helping with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, October 2012. Candlelight Vigil, 2012.