When we witness domestic violence, we have an obligation to at least call 911

Wednesday , February 07, 2018 - 4:30 AM4 comments


The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition compiles an annual report on domestic violence homicides.

In 2016, it documented 22 deaths.

In 2017, the list doubled.

What if we stopped acting as if domestic violence is none of our business? What if we stood up for those being abused?

Rep. Brian King, a Salt Lake City Democrat, believes we could save lives.

King sponsored House Bill 125, which requires bystanders to assist others in danger, either during a crime or an emergency.

King’s bill, modeled on laws in 10 states, does not compel Utahns to become heroes. It does not require bystanders to put themselves at risk. Only to provide assistance.

“‘Assistance’ means contacting paramedics, fire protection, law enforcement, or other appropriate emergency services,” according to the amended bill.

In other word, it requires bystanders to call 911.

HB 125 makes bystander inaction a Class B misdemeanor. Amos Guiora, a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney School of Law, helped King develop the bill. He says calling 911 is the least someone can do to aid a sexual violence victim.

"The perpetrator, the one who's committing the crime, from my perspective, the bystander facilitates the perpetrator's actions by not calling 911," Guiora told Dani Hayes of Utah Public Radio. "And the context of the legislation that Representative King has introduced, dialing 911 really sets a low bar. And so when you see sexual assault, sexual violence, which we know is so much out there tragically today, all you need to do is dial 911."

One in three Utah women will experience sexual violence during the course of their lives, according to the Utah Health Department. A 2008 state report found that intimate partners raped and assaulted nearly 170,000 Utah women a year.

If doing something as simple as dialing 911 can save lives and reduce domestic violence in Utah, we need to require it.

Pass HB 125.

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