YCC: Utah domestic violence rates higher than nation

Thursday , June 25, 2015 - 6:28 AM

OGDEN — While expressing sympathy to extended family of a Roy family killed in an apparent murder-suicide, officials at Your Community Connection say they are hoping the news will spur other families to get the help they need.

Utah’s rate of domestic violence is higher than the national average, with one in three women believed to experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, said Julee Smith, executive director at YCC. She said one in four women nationally experience domestic violence.

Also alarming, Smith said, are the number of homicides in Utah that are related to domestic violence. She said last year’s homicide number was up 59 percent.

“We so express our sympathy and condolences to the family,” Smith said. “This is a major tragedy. This was a wonderful family. This can happen to anybody.”

Smith said the YCC has offered its services and resources to relatives of the Roy family.

She said she’s working to connect the family with the Utah Office of Crime Victims, which reaches out to victims of violent crimes, including offering funding to help pay funeral expenses of victims.

While this tragedy is evidence of some of the worst situations, Smith said there is hope on the horizon as society is learning to say no to domestic violence.

Men have stepped up and they are saying this is not acceptable behavior, and we are grateful for that,” Smith said.

Another bright spot, Smith said, is a pilot program YCC and some other agencies are involved in called Lethality Assessment Protocol.

Funded by the last session of the Utah Legislature, training begins for the program July 8.

The training will involve officials from Maryland, where advocates have followed an evidence-based program for 25 years that Smith said has been effective.

She hopes the program will one day become a statewide program.

“The whole idea is down the road we will have police departments trained to know how high the risk is for domestic violence in a given situation. When police go out on a call, they will say ’This is how high your risk is’ and literally call the shelter and get them connected right then.”

Smith hopes to one day work her way out of a job, as violence stops in homes and families.

“Too many people think that being married is almost like having property,” Smith said. “We all need to be aware that if we see something going on, we help them get resources.”

She also said sometimes wives will believe they will be able to leave when their situation gets worse, but they sometimes can’t.

Smith said domestic violence is not harmful to just the people involved, but to everyone.

“We all pay for it,” she said. “The cost of domestic violence is huge. It’s $8.3 billion a year.”

She said medical costs and psychological costs can be astounding.

“It’s not just physical, it is mental,” she said, explaining how children often are unable to concentrate in school when they know there are problems going on at home.

Melissa Wayment, victim assistance center manager for YCC, is hoping groups will take advantage of the YCC’s educational services and invite her and her associates to visit them and give presentations on what they can do to help.

“If the community wanted to reach out to us or other shelters, we will go out and give presentations to anybody, church groups, employee organizations, or any other groups,” Wayment said.

“We are willing to go to anybody at any time,” Smith said, noting how she wants to make a special appeal to teachers and school administrators. “We want to go in and talk to young people. Awareness is powerful. It isn’t acceptable. It does happen here.”

She said she wants everyone to know what resources there are and to help people connect.

For information, call the YCC at 801-394-9456 or visit the website http://www.ycchope.org/.

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