As director of the Utah State University Center for Women and Gender, Ann Austin is responsible for finding and scheduling guest speakers who can address issues effecting women throughout the world. During a recent lecture by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, students and community members in Cache Valley were told that worldwide, violence toward women is a modern-day moral matter.
"And the central moral challenge of the twentieth century was totalitarianism. In this century, the central moral challenge will be gender inequity around the globe," he said in his presentation.
"I thought it was ironic but at the same time telling of what Kristof said when he said that there are two big issues now facing this century," Austin said. "The one issue is trafficking of humans and the other issue is violence against girls and women. And then just a day later we have this situation in our valley."
Austin is referring to an incident that happened in her neighboring community of Smithfield, just North of Logan. The day after Kristof made his comments, on February 16 a 14-year-old girl didn’t come home from school. Neighbors and law enforcement searched for several hours and found Deserae Turner injured and abandoned in a ditch. She had been shot in the head from behind. And now, two 16-year-old boys from the community are charged with attempted aggravated murder.
"Whether they were targeting a woman or a person that might have been smaller than they were, it’s still strength against perhaps less strength or size against perhaps less size," Austin said.
Turner’s family released a statement recently saying that she is recovering, and after spending several days in a medically induced coma has been transferred to a neuro trauma unit. Cache County attorneys hope to have the boys tried as adults.
Even though there isn’t one solution for international violence against women, Austin said in this case, community members united together to advocate, support and fundraise for Turner.
"I’ve been very touched with all the projects that have been happening spontaneously in the valley to help this 14-year-old girl," she said.