Here are the 5 steps Moab rafting guides have learned to combat sexism and harassment on the river

The training is part of an effort to create safer places on Utah’s rivers for both guides and guests.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Colin Evans, center, president of the Colorado Plateau River Guides (CPRG), laughs with Richard Rootes, a CPRG board member and river guide, and Cora Phillips, the director of prevention and education for Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center in Moab, August 10, 2022.

Maria Blevins was concerned when she boarded a raft to go down Cataract Canyon in late April, knowing she would soon be spending an evening speaking to professional river guides about sexism and harassment in her industry.

“I’m going out into the wild with 30 people I’ve never met to tell them to stop sexually harassing each other,” she recalled. “This could be the worst four days of my life as I just show up to be the buzzkill.”

Blevins was once a raft guide and she knows people are often drawn to the fun, party atmosphere that working on the river can bring. She has also researched the prevalence of harassment in the world of professional tour guides in her current position as a professor at Utah Valley University.

For this training, she worked with Cora Phillips, director of prevention and education at the Seekhaven Family Crisis and Resource Center in Moab, which helps people who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.

The women spoke to the Moab-based professional guides as part of an interpretive tour, a one-day training session where participants learn about astronomy, biology or camp life. It is the first time, according to the organizers, that the topic of sexual harassment will be discussed.

Turns out, Blevins didn’t need to be nervous. Phillips said the group had hours of intense conversations, discussing possible scenarios and how they might respond. “It was clear they just craved a space to talk about it,” she said, “and a safe environment where they could really work with other people.”

You can read the full story here — Sexual harassment has plagued the world of river guides. Here’s how Utah residents are working to change that — to learn more about the Utah River culture that Phillips, Blevins, and others are trying to change.

And here are the tips Blevins and Phillips taught guides at Cataract Canyon to intervene effectively when they see someone uncomfortable.


If they see someone on the river making an inappropriate comment or crossing boundaries, they can distract people in the situation.

They might ask something like, “Hey, can you help me get that cooler?” or maybe they’re using their body to create space between the person exhibiting problematic behavior and the target person.

Act directly

You could also address the situation head on and let someone know that their comments are not acceptable or allowed on the river.

“I know you’re frustrated,” a leader might say, “but they don’t deserve to be spoken to like that.”

Document the incident

A leader could keep a log detailing what happened, the date when it happened, and the names of anyone else who saw the inappropriate behavior. Phillips suggested asking the molested person what they want the guide to do with the information.

Delegate a helper

They might find another leader or perhaps an authority figure to help with the situation and acknowledge that what they are seeing is not appropriate. This can help establish that the problematic behavior is not an acceptable social norm.

Delay and check in

Guides can contact the suspected victim to ask if they are okay. Phillips said guides should be willing to listen and offer support. Here are the 5 steps Moab rafting guides have learned to combat sexism and harassment on the river

Justin Scacco

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