Utah above national average for domestic violence homicides; victim advocates seek more resources

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Statistics show domestic violence is on the rise nationally, and in Utah the resources aimed to help people escape threatening situations are stretched to capacity.

According to the Utah Department of Health, at least one woman is murdered by her intimate partner each month. Just last week in Eagle Mountain, a woman shot her husband dead in their living room as their children slept upstairs. The problem is increasing nationwide, but the issue of intimate partner violence in Utah is greater than the national average.

Among those who have died in Utah at the hands of their partners or parents are 19-year-old Mackenzie Madden and 26-year-old Amanda Lee Hoyt as well as Kelly, Jaden and Haley Boren.

“In Utah, when we look at a 10-year trend, we're looking at almost 43 percent of our homicides are domestic violence related,” said Jennifer Oxborrow, who is a domestic violence coordinator for the Department of Human Services.

That’s compared to a national average of about 30 percent, and Oxborrow said there are a few reasons for Utah’s high rate.

"Women who are impacted by domestic violence in Utah tend to have more children than other women do in other states,” she said. “They also have comparatively low-earning potential, so it makes it difficult to leave an abusive relationship.”

Kendra Wyckoff, executive director for Safe Harbor Crisis Center in Davis County, said there is also a lack for preventative resources.

"Just in the last year from 2012 to 2013, we saw a 78 percent increase in unmet requests for service in the state of Utah,” she said.

Wyckoff said that in 2012, domestic violence programs in Utah received about 2,000 requests for services that providers could not serve, and that number jumped to more than 5,000 the following year.

“We work very hard with the network of providers across the state to try to get folks connected to services if we are at capacity, but the reality is sometimes we end up in a situation where every shelter from Brigham City all the way down to Provo to Park City to Tooele is completely full,” Wyckoff said.

Domestic dispute calls are among the most dangerous for law enforcement to respond to as well. Chief Greg Butler, Woods Cross City Police Department, said he noticed a trend--which is why he initiated a lethality protocol assessment, also known as LAP, for his officers to get help to those who need it.

“Evidence shows that if we get them into shelter, the chance for results drops 60 percent,” Butler said. “That's huge because it still seems like we go to the same houses over and over and over again.”

The Woods Cross department has been trained with the Maryland model of LAP—essentially, if an officer responds to a domestic dispute and senses a larger threat is present, the officer contacts a shelter and puts the victim in contact before leaving the scene.

“It's been in the works in Maryland since 2005 I believe, and they reduced intimate homicide by 40 percent,” Butler said. “If we do that in the state of Utah we can save 15 to 20 lives per year.”

But funding is a big issue, not only to pay to train the officers, but to increase the amount of shelters needed to accommodate the increasing demand. Utah Rep.Edward Redd, R-District 4, is working to get more funds for the cause.

“We do have a request for appropriations to try and address both of those issues: the training and the increased shelter resources,” he said.

The conversation of funding domestic violence prevention is going on now in the Utah legislature. Redd said he feels the funding could be the difference of life and death.

“We're not just talking about getting people help, we're talking about saving people's lives,” he said.

For more information about domestic violence and the resources available to those in need, visit the Utah Department of Human Services online.

7 comments

  • Nicole

    Well, your right about it being a growing problem, but still missing a HUGE fact, and most important fact.
    Like many LAWS and legal action towards criminal and illegal activity, UTAH has continued to focus its attention and budget on useless and wasteful solutions, when the changes need to be made in their action and approach to the cause.
    We need govermnet officials who are willing to roll up their sleeves and take responsibility and say, what do we need to do differently? Where are WE failing? throwing money and pointing fingers to lable individuals and somehow expext it to fix itself, which is what we do, where it infact, is not a solution, but a huge cause to these situations, and in no way whatsoever anyform of prevention.
    This applies to MANY of our current problems with law enforcement and laws, and is a disgrace to continue to allow.
    Personally,I have been involved in and affected by criminal and illegal incidents in utah, actually, I don’t believe there to be ONE person who can’t agree, that alone should make you think. It can’t ALWAYS be the other person. So who will be the real hero and take accountability?! You already got my vote!
    * I have a perfect example of a domestic abuse incident I would love to share, but not without concent from others involved.contact me if you feel it could help.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    What we need in Utah NICOLE, is more parents that teach their children about morality and the difference between right and wrong. When mommy is in jail and daddy is in prison children can sometimes get the wrong impressions.

    • Nicole

      I agree 100% there is not one cause, nor one solution, and every party involved is affected not only by the situation, but mostly by the outcome and handling of the situation. Statistics can show you that. With so many resources and information at out finger tips,I think its high time we start using it. Hypocritic as it sounds, if only wewould spend a fraction of our time on efforts, instead of our opinions, we might have better results, or just more opinions. They say if people are talking about a subject, its awareness, I say, if you don’t know personally, its ignorance, and we are wasting time while losing lives. So shame on us, in a way.

      • ANOTHERBOB

        As a former police officer I’ve responded to domestic violence calls where the woman wants her boyfriend/husband arrested and taken to jail. At some point after the arrest some women start realizing that a total stranger they’ve never met has just handcuffed their beloved man and is trying to take him to jail. Now she’s yelling at the officer.

        Part of the problem, Nicole, (and it’s politically incorrect to say it) is that sometimes the abused allows/tolerates that behavior repeatedly. I’ve seen it and I suspect that you already know what I’m talking about.

  • Bo

    STOP before you go any further. This article is completely misleading. The actual facts are not that Utah has more “domestic violence” murders per 100,000; its saying that the percentage of total murders is more often “domestic violence” related because there aren’t very many other murders. In other words, because drug and gang related murders are so few, domestic violence accounts for a higher percentage of total murders. Utah does not have a larger problem then other states; this article is a lie.

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