Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Susan Poulsen is no longer shocked at the large number of domestic disturbance cases officers are sent out on each day. But the unwelcome trend of those situations resulting in extreme violence has her surprised and concerned.
"We want people to get in control of their emotions," Poulsen said. "(These cases) are turning into serious violence ... We want to prevent that and do what we can to give people awareness."
Hard numbers illustrating a rise in violence in domestic disturbances weren't available, but Poulsen said the recent shift has been noticeable, particularly in cases between estranged or divorced couples.
An example, Poulsen said, is Kristopher Lee Ertmann, 25, who was arrested and charged with attempted murder after allegedly slashing the throat of his estranged wife last week in a Fruit Heights park. Police at the time said Ertmann and his wife met at the park to discuss terms of their divorce, but a confrontation broke out, and that turned to violence.
Sheila Richins, shelter manager at Safe Harbor Crisis Center in Kaysville, said domestic violence has increased to the point that the 31-bed shelter is always full. Additionally, the abuse is going beyond just slapping or hitting, to violence meant to cause serious injury.
In some cases, Richins said, victims don't even recognize violence as abuse.
"A lot of times, they just think that's the way their life is," she said.
Poulsen said a common reason domestic disturbances turn violent is that they tend to be stressful situations, with people at the height of emotion. But if people can corral their emotions and control their actions -- regardless of what the other person is doing -- there would be far fewer instances of violence.
Citing an example of a situation that could easily have been avoided had one party shown better judgment, Poulsen told of a recent situation in which a man had placed notes to his estranged wife in several places in her bedroom. The notes weren't threats, and the man wasn't arrested, but Poulsen said similar cases have turned violent.
"The point is, that kind of thing is not necessary," she said. " ... If one person can swallow their pride, a lot of these cases wouldn't end up as bad."
Richins said it's important to stop domestic abuse when it begins, before it becomes cyclical. She recommended victims immediately seek information and become educated. Many shelters, she noted, including Safe Harbor Crisis Center, offer outreach programs to help educate victims.