‘I will listen and believe you,’ participants pledge at ‘Lauren McCluskey Memorial Walk’ in Cedar City

CEDAR CITY — Approximately 50 people took part in Cedar City’s “Lauren McCluskey Memorial Walk” on Friday, the third anniversary of McCluskey’s death.

Participants surround pledge banner following Southern Utah University’s “Lauren McCluskey Memorial Walk,” Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 22, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

McCluskey was a 21-year-old student-athlete from Pullman, Washington, who was attending the University of Utah on a track scholarship when she was murdered on Oct. 22, 2018 in a parking lot near her dorm on campus in Salt Lake City by a man she’d briefly dated. After learning he had lied about his name, age and criminal background, McCluskey had made repeated attempts to distance herself from him and keep herself safe, including making multiple calls to police.

Friday at the University of Utah, Lauren’s parents Jill and Matt McCluskey held a news conference during which they announced an initiative designed to curtail dating violence and stalking on college campuses nationwide.

The Lauren McCluskey Foundation has already expanded its outreach to more than 125 campuses across the country, with thousands of students pledging to adhere to Lauren’s promise, which states: “I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.”

Southern Utah University held its own memorial walk in Cedar City on Friday afternoon at the Eccles Coliseum track. The event was co-sponsored by the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, SUU and Canyon Creek Services.

Kaleigh Bronson-Cook, awareness and prevention director for Canyon Creek Services, said McCluskey had taken numerous steps to protect herself from the man who had been threatening her.

Southern Utah University’s “Lauren McCluskey Memorial Walk,” Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 22, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“She did everything right,” Bronson-Cook said of McCluskey. “She contacted police. She reached out to Title IX, she was going to therapy, she reached out to peers … all of the things that we encourage survivors of domestic violence to do, she did. And her story still ended in stalking and homicide.”

Jake Johnson, who is the director of SUU’s Equal Opportunity Office and its Title IX Coordinator, encouraged those in attendance, “Commit today and forever moving forward, that you will not be the type of person that inflicts violence on someone else.”

Curtis Hill, director of SUU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, encouraged students to take advantage of available resources.

Some students might not be aware that they’re in an abusive relationship at first, Hill noted.

“But when you do start to recognize it, it is essential for you to have somebody that loves you, somebody that cares deeply for you, to talk to,” he said, encouraging such students to also be willing to seek professional help “from somebody that has training, and will take you seriously and your concerns as valid.”

After those in attendance had walked a lap around the track in McCluskey’s memory, a prize drawing was held and a 50-inch TV was given away. The crowd then held up a banner they’d signed, which read, “T-Bird Nation Pledges to Fulfill Lauren’s Promise.”

For more information visit the respective websites of the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, SUU Counseling and Psychological Services or Canyon Creek Services.

Cedar City-based Canyon Creek Services also has a 24-hour help hotline (call or text): 435-233-5732.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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