POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Lethality assessment: What is it and how can it help domestic violence victims?

Jan 9, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 1:51 pm

a memorial with stuffed animals is pictured in front of the Haight home, a lethality assessment is ...

Summer Trammeling of Enoch adds to the memorial across the street from the Haight home in Enoch, Iron County, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.  Earlier in the week, police say a man shot seven members of his family before taking his own life. Trammeling’s daughters were friends with two of the Haight daughters. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is running a bill that would require police to conduct a risk assessment for certain domestic violence situations. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, whose cousin was killed by an ex in 2022, supports the bill.

The conversation about risk assessment for domestic violence comes less than a week after a family of eight was found dead in their Enoch home. Police suspect the family’s patriarch, Michael Haight, killed his family before dying by suicide.

Domestic violence escalating to killing isn’t uncommon, Dave and Dujanovic. Weiler, who is also a divorce attorney, said he had a client who was killed by her ex-husband following a divorce.

What would the lethality assessment requirement do?

Weiler said about half the state’s law enforcement agencies already voluntarily use the lethality assessment. But his legislation would require all agencies to use the assessment.

The requirement wouldn’t cover all domestic violence situations though, only covering intimate partner situations.

“So this would be different than a mother fighting with her son. And this would be, you know, lovers or former lovers,” Weiler said.

The assessment, also known as the Maryland Model, asks several questions meant to determine the risk someone faces of being killed by their partner.

Weiler said the assessment includes questions like “has your partner threatened to kill you?”

“If they answer yes to enough of the questions, there’s an immediate call for shelter, and a warning to the person,” Weiler said. That warning alerts victims to the danger they are in.

“You probably shouldn’t go home tonight. You should probably find somewhere else to sleep tonight, whether that’s at a shelter, or a relative’s house or a friend’s house.”

Weiler encouraged anyone currently in a toxic or abusive situation to look at the assessment and ask themselves the questions.

The assessment isn’t foolproof, Weiler said, but it offers a frame of reference for people who might not realize how much danger they’re in. 

“Often they’ve never been in a relationship like that before,” Weiler said.  “Maybe they know it’s not normal, but they may not know how abnormal it is.”

Listen to the full segment below:

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing trouble linked to domestic violence, the following resources are available.

Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine
1-800-897-LINK (5465)
If LINKLine advocates experience an increased call volume, they will forward calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

StrongHearts Native Helpline
1-844-762-8483

Related: Lt. Gov. Henderson hopes to turn tragedy into protective legislation

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Lethality assessment: What is it and how can it help domestic violence victims?