Members of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition on Thursday will once again ask state lawmakers for more money to fund victims services and member programs — but this year the group’s executive director believes it has a better chance of getting it.
Two years ago, lawmakers allocated a one-time grant for law enforcement to implement a standardized, research-based method of determining a victim’s risk in an abusive situation and getting help for him or her. Now, with a year left of grant funding, the coalition has data to back up why it should receive ongoing funds, not just one-time money, said Jenn Oxborrow, the coalition’s executive director.
With the data the group has, lawmakers are “starting to see that the returns on this are going to be huge,” Oxborrow told The Salt Lake Tribune after a Tuesday news conference at the state Capitol.
Oxborrow spoke with lawmakers and media as part of her coalition’s 2018 Advocacy Day at the Capitol, ahead of Thursday’s funding request for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s (UDVC) member programs. The request comes after a particularly violent year for domestic violence victims in Utah, where more than 40 percent of all homicides were allegedly perpetrated by a loved one or former loved one.
The group is requesting ongoing funding of just over $1.48 million, with the majority going toward program expenses, such as supplies and client costs, according to a UDVC Advocacy Day primer provided to The Tribune.
Since July 2015, when the UDVC began training law enforcement in how to use “lethality assessment protocol,” more than 6,500 victims have been screened. About 76 percent received crisis counseling, 71 percent of those victims spoke to an advocate and 49 percent were provided shelter, according to UDVC data.
Utah needs to further fund domestic violence services, according to the primer, because of the prevalence of the crime and because connecting with a victim advocate or other support service reduces by 60 percent a high-risk victim’s chances of being assaulted again.
Of the many bills this legislative session addressing domestic violence, Oxborrow said she thinks the biggest impact will come from SB27. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, and Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, redefines Utah’s definition of domestic violence to include people who are in a consensual sexual relationship but aren’t married and haven’t lived together.
She said her organization also supports HB125, sponsored by Rep. Brian S. King, D-Salt Lake City. If the bill becomes law, anyone who sees a crime or emergency situation that could result in “serious bodily injury” and doesn’t call 911 can be charged with a class B misdemeanor.
Oxborrow said HB125 would help change how people respond to domestic violence.
“There’s a lot of victim blaming that’s really inherent in domestic and sexual violence,” she said. “So this takes it off of the person who’s been victimized and put its on the bystanders, and says, ‘This our responsibility to make sure that we’re supporting safety in our community.’ ”
Both bills address Utah’s current laws that were highlighted with the death of Memorez Rackley and her 6-year-old son, Jase, in Sandy last year.
Rackley, 39, and her son were killed when a man she had recently broken up with gunned them down after days of repeated incidents of stalking and harassment. Rackley’s older son, and a girl whose mother had tried to help the Rackleys, were also injured in the onslaught.
Oxborrow’s request is scheduled to go in front of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday to request funding.
SB27 was approved in the Senate and was sent to the House, where it bounced to the Rules Committee, where it’s being held until the 40th day of the legislative session because of its $150,400 price tag. HB125 remains in the House for a third reading. If approved, it will next move to a Senate committee for approval.
Confidential and free resources are available through the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). For more information, visit udvc.org.