Since new law began, domestic violence referrals spike 83%

Sep 19, 2023, 7:00 PM

domestic violence...

Nicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, wipes away a tear during a press conference for SB117, a bill advocating for domestic violence protections, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ryan Sun/The Deseret News via AP)

(Ryan Sun/The Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Since its inception on July 1, a new state law standardizes domestic violence levels. Law enforcement statewide conduct a lethality assessment on scene to determine the likelihood of violence for the victim in a toxic relationship. 

With the new law came a flood of referrals to domestic violence service providers throughout the state. 

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition reports an 83% increase in victim referrals to service providers, resulting from the lethality assessments administered by police or first responders, according to Deseret News.

From January to June 2023, the state averaged 238 high-danger assessments each month. When the statewide program took effect in July, the state reported 611 high danger assessments, a 127% increase.

Mikaylee Gray, prevention program coordinator with the Domestic Violence Coalition, joins Dave and Debbie to discuss the spike in referral numbers, the limited resources and how the process works on scene.

Gray said the 83% increase in referrals is putting pressure on domestic violence service providers throughout the state. And that is increasing the wait time for necessary services like shelters.

“We’re seeing a big increase in external-shelter referrals,” Gray said.

If the shelter is full, some service providers are able to offer a couple of nights at a hotel or motel or other types of shelters.

How the assessment works

Gray said the lethality assessment with police works like this:

Officers arrive on scene and separate victim from aggressor and conduct the assessment. Based on the responses from the victim, officers or first responders will make a referral to one of the 18 community-based service providers throughout the state.

Police will give the advocate the victim’s “danger” score. The victim will tell police what services he or she is interested in, such as finding a temporary shelter. The advocate will go over a brief safety plan to immediately move the victim out of harm’s way.

If the victim chooses not to go into shelter, she or he is able to receive services like case management, legal advocacy and clinical therapy, Gray said, adding the wait times for those have grown from a couple of days to at least two weeks across the board.

The Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) is a 12-question screening tool used by officers and first responders to identify high-risk domestic abuse victims. Some of those question may be:

  • Whether the aggressor has a gun
  • Whether the victim feels the situation is lethal
  • Whether the aggressor has ever used a weapon against the victim
  • Whether the aggressor has threatened to kill the victim or the victim’s children
  • Whether the aggressor is violently or constantly jealous

Domestic violence resources

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:


Legislature passes bill requiring police to perform lethality assessment for domestic violence calls

Since landmark domestic violence law took effect, victim referrals are on the rise and shelters are filling up

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Since new law began, domestic violence referrals spike 83%