CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Leaving an abusive relationship can be complicated and dangerous, expert says

Jan 9, 2023, 3:23 PM | Updated: 3:46 pm

FILE: Purple flags at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. A Utah lawmaker says it's too easy for a rest...

FILE: Purple flags at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. A Utah lawmaker says it's too easy for a restricted person convicted of domestic violence to plead down and serve less time. A new proposal would change the penalty to a second-degree felony and increase jail time to a minimum of one year. (Yukai Peng/Deseret News)

(Yukai Peng/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Enoch community continues to reel from the killing of a family, experts advise that there are resources for those trying to get out of abusive situations.

Communications and Engagement Specialist with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, Kimmi Wolf, told Dave and Dujanovic that feeling unsafe is reason enough to leave a relationship. Abuse isn’t always physical, Wolf said. Leaving an abusive relationship is complicated and dangerous, the expert said.

“You think that domestic violence doesn’t get to a level of concern unless there’s physical violence or lethality and that’s just not true.”

Wolf said that domestic violence should be taken very seriously, especially when things begin to escalate.

The dangers of leaving an abusive relationship

While there are steps victims can take to involve law enforcement, Wolf said that doesn’t stop the risk of harm.

“There are orders of protection, but you know, if someone is going to do harm and especially if they are willing to also harm themselves, there are no legal consequences to their actions.”

Getting orders of protection, filing police reports and seeking resources from a shelter can offer some help. But Wolf said there are no guarantees.

“If someone is going to harm you, that needs to be taken seriously.”

Wolf said that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they try to leave the relationship. 

Enoch victim Tausha Haight had filed for divorce from her husband, suspect Michael Haight, just weeks before the killings.

Helping victims

State Sen. Todd Weiler is heading legislation that aims to require police to perform a lethality assessment whenever there is a situation with intimate partner violence.

Wolf said the assessment can be a good tool, but it isn’t a magic wand.

“The power of this tool is that when they indicate and help someone understand that they are in a potentially lethal situation, there is some place for this person to go,” Wold said, adding ” We can open this up throughout the state. But if we are not properly funding domestic violence programs, then there’s gonna be a bottleneck.

The lethality assessment can also provide validation for victims, Wolf said.

“We have to start with some validation and believing the victim and showing our concern. And concern by law enforcement and the training they receive is absolutely essential to helping a victim understand that they are in danger.”

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s website offers resources to those looking for help. There are places across the state offering assistance to anyone who needs it. The coalition’s website also offers safety plan resources for those looking to leave an abusive situation.

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

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Leaving an abusive relationship can be complicated and dangerous, expert says