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Utah Amps Up Domestic Violence Laws to Defend More Women

Revisions to Utah’s domestic violence laws will now make it easier for women to acquire protective orders against their abusers.

Titled SB27, the bill focuses on provisions related to domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. It modifies the protections to include victims who are harassed and abused by aggressors they may not have been married to and living with, but had experienced a consensual relationship with at a point in time.

The decision to change Utah’s law on domestic violence came after a 2017 incident where Memorez Rackley, 39, and her son Jase, six, were fatally shot by Rackley’s ex-boyfriend on their way home from school.

Reports showed that Rackley had been advised by 911 officials to petition for a protective order against her ex, but was later told she couldn’t file for the restriction order because they had never lived together.

That former specific stipulation was met with criticism by Republican Senator Todd Weiler, who called it absurd.

“I just could not get that out of my mind,” Weiler told US News. “A protective order is a piece of paper that will not stop a bullet, but it does make a difference, especially if someone is lurking outside of your house.”

Roughly 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime, and 66.2 percent of female stalking victims were stalked by a current or former intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

An additional piece of legislation, HB165, offers protections for domestic violence survivors designed to limit the aggressor’s interactions with the victim and their family members. It also provides distinct guidelines for prosecutors and law enforcement officials regarding the pretrial process.

On average, close to 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States, which equals approximately 10 million women and men each year, according to NCADV. The coalition also highlights that 76 percent of victims of physical intimate partner violence are female and 24 percent are male.

The distinction of cohabitation is more inclusive of broader forms of domestic abuse, and the new bills have been moving easily through Utah’s state legislature.

“It is our responsibility to take care of our children, to take care of our women, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our grandmothers,” community advocate Cassandra Begay told Desert News. “Women are sacred.”

SB27 and HB165 cleared the Senate and have already been introduced to the House. While it may take a while to see statistical results of the pieces of legislation that are a surefire to pass in the House, the expanded stipulations of protection are bound to reach out to more victims. Nuance technicalities such as cohabitation do not negate abuse when abuse is present, and it is the duty of law enforcement and officials to protect their citizens from harm, especially women and children.

Featured Image by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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