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Idaho sexual assault survivors and supporters come together for healing vigil, call for accountability

Survivors and supporters are set to gather at the Idaho Capitol for a healing vigil on Monday night.

BOISE, Idaho — The community is set to come together for a healing vigil for all survivors of sexual assault at the Idaho Statehouse on Monday. 

Event organizers said the ethics hearing into claims that a now-former lawmaker sexually assaulted a 19-year-old intern inspired the event.

“I said look, I really want to hold a vigil for everybody tonight because there needs to be some healing from this and for everything else we’ve been through,” said Erin Dominguez, the founder of the Idaho Female Veterans Network.

Dominguez said the treatment of ‘Jane Doe’ before, during, and after the ethics hearing was extremely troubling to members of the network. Doe was followed and harassed after testifying during the House ethics hearing and targeted with online harassment to bully her, as well as action aimed at publicly identify her.

“There was a lot of people who were hurt and who were really struggling with what’s going on because a lot of us have faced that retaliation before and it triggered a lot of people,” Dominguez said.

As a veteran, Dominguez has faced very challenging times and has had experiences similar to Miss Doe. She explained that events like the vigil can really help survivors in need.

“The biggest importance is support. I can tell you that my healing started when I knew that I had support," Dominguez said. "I had felt so alone for so long. That alone, me being alone and feeling alone, led me to some very dark places.” 

The recent ethics hearing sparked a conversation across Idaho about sexual assault and survivors. Event organizers hope that the vigil will help continue the community conversation.

“This is our work and we’ve been doing it for years," said Annie Hightower, director of law and policy at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. "This case just magnified the problems in the systems that we experience and the way we support survivors."

Recently, Hightower worked with Jane Doe and her case. One clear issue is the efforts to publicly identify and harass Miss Doe. Specifically, Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R-White Bird) posting links on her official social media page with the name and photo of Jane Doe.

“This is why people don’t report because they are scared of this happening," Hightower said. "So that's just baseline, but the fact that we have an elected representative do this for political gains is pretty sickening and it definitely sends a clear message to people in the state that if you report, watch out. Who knows what’s going to happen?" 

In addition to providing support for survivors, event organizers will continue to call for Giddings to be held accountable. Some believe the House Ethics Committee should investigate her conduct, while others believe she should resign. 

Giddings also serves as a major in the Air Force Reserves, something Dominguez said as a veteran is troubling, especially considering the recent incidents in the U.S. military.

“[At] Fort Hood, they’ve found four or five dead soldiers who have reported sexual assault. Retaliation is real," Dominguez said. "People are dying, people are being murdered for reporting their sexual assaults. There is no difference in what Major Giddings did. She is in the Air Force, she knows better. She has had training on sexual assault and how to handle them.”

KTVB reached out to Giddings for comment on this story, but she did not respond. 

Organizers feel the event will provide an important opportunity for the community.

“When you experience sexual violence, it feels like you are the only one. In part, because that information is so private, and you want to keep it private," Hightower said. "Events like this are really helpful I think for folks who have experienced violence to recognize or realize there are other people out there who have gone through the same thing, who they can connect with, and who can help connect them with healing and supportive services.” 

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