Women and children are dying in Utah, killed by violent men who need to be punished while being helped.
So believe most Utah House members who Wednesday morning passed two bills aimed at curbing domestic violence. However, the bills together carry a $1 million price tag that so far hasn't been funded by legislators."We have an epidemic," said Rep. Marda Dillree, R-Farmington, sponsor of the main domestic- violence bill. "This is the real crime bill of this session. This will really cut crime, for it gets at its root."
She said 50 percent of homeless women and children are victims of domestic violence, and 80 percent of children who witness violence in their homes grow up to abuse alcohol and drugs. "Domestic violence costs us $60 billion a year in this nation in medical costs," she added.
Her bill, which would cost about $800,000 next year, would require police to actively intervene in domestic violence calls, probably arresting the offending party and immediately taking him from the home. It provides enhanced penalties for repeat offenders.
But its real teeth comes in empowering the victims. With a protective order in hand, a woman could call the police and her abusive husband or boyfriend could be immediately arrested for violating the order and taken to jail. Violation of the order would be a Class A misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in jail.
The bill requires police who go on a domestic violence call to investigate who is responsible and to give information to the victim on shelters and agencies that can help.
Also, the police officer can arrest the offender if there is no protection order and take him to jail and/or the officer can help the woman and children leave the home and take them to a shelter.
Rep. Mont Evans' bill would give those shelters $270,500 more next year to expand operations.