Bills intended to help victims of domestic violence

By Becky GINOS UTAH STATE CAPITOL—Since 2000, more than 40 percent of adult homicides in Utah were domestic violence related, and approximately 80 Utah children witness the attempted murder or murder of their mother every year, according to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. With those staggering statistics, legislators are crafting bills during this session with the hope of curbing the violence. “Our lethality assessment program (LAP) showed 10 determining factors in the (Memorez) Rackley shooting,” said Coalition Executive Director Jenn Oxborrow at a news conference held at the Capitol last week. “We’re excited about these bills that clarify safety provisions for survivors. That can really help.” Rackley and her son were shot and killed June 6, 2017 by a man she had previously dated. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross and Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City are running companion bills SB27 and HB165 that are among several domestic violence related bills. “I convened a work group after the tragic death of Memorez,” said Weiler. “I knew we needed to do better because we have some gaps in the law that needed to be do better because we have some gaps in the law that needed to be addressed.” In a protective order, SB27 would expand the definition of partner to include someone you have an intimate, sexual relationship with but you never lived with, Weiler said. “It wouldn’t have included her children’s school so we’ve expanded the area to include that,” he said. “There is also a default that it expires in 10 years unless the defendant brings new evidence. Right now it’s in place until you die. We’re trying to balance it on both ends.” Weiler is the floor sponsor for Romero’s bill that addresses jail release agreements for the arrestee getting out of jail after a domestic violence incident. “This came out of our efforts in the work group,” said Weiler. “Memorez probably could have gotten a stalking injunction but I don’t think she knew that.” In addition to the bills, the coalition is asking for funding. “It’s not to increase the number of shelters, but to solidify the programs we have,” said Oxborrow. “We rely on donations and federal and private grants. We’ve never been handed long-term, dedicated money. We never know from year to year what we’ll have. We’re asking for a little less than $1.5 million for some core money.” Currently there are 13 private, nonprofit shelters, she said. “It’s important to have a nongovernment facility for privacy and safety,” said Oxborrow. “We love the police but they don’t have secure housing or shelters. As they work with the LAP they’re helping high-risk people and trying to get them into life-saving services and coordinating response. Most states our size would have 40 to 50 shelters and we only have 13. That’s why we’re at capacity most of the time.” Weiler’s bill passed unanimously but is waiting on a fiscal note. “It can’t pass the House with the note,” he said. “But it’s on a trajectory to pass without any opposition at all.”


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