SALT LAKE CITY — "It starts with a kiss, it starts with wooing," Peg Coleman said.
Not a slap, not a bullet. Violence is often progressive.
Questions surrounding domestic violence were heightened Friday after five people were found dead Thursday evening. Police discovered a mother and her two children dead, and the husband suspected of shooting them and his mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself.
It remains unclear what events led to the tragic result in a Spanish Fork home. But Coleman, the executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council, said there can be red flags as relationships progress toward violent behavior.
"Some people are really charming and then subtly put down other people," Coleman said. "That is a way perpetrators can discredit their partners so (they're) not believed."
Coleman said she often hears from victims that they had a gut feeling something was wrong. Family members may ask why the aggressor needs to know the victims whereabouts at all times. Victims may find themselves isolated. These are all warning signs.
Sonia Salari, associate professor in the department of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, has been working on a study with Carrie Sillito since 2004 on murder-suicide cases in the United States.
All cases of murder-suicide, Salari said, leave a "raw wound" for communities, without closure from the court systems.
The purpose of her study she said is not to investigate the prevalence, but rather the influence those situations have on families and communities.
"There are people out there who are suffering because of this," Salari said. "If there's some way to raise the awareness and have a situation where we can help prevent these kinds of deaths then I think we should work as a society to try to find those answers."
Carol Storey, licensed clinical social worker, said the domestic violence cases she has seen usually stem from a marital issue that grows.
"Just really internalized rage is the best way I can describe it," she said.
When it comes to close-knit police communities, Coleman said it can be even more difficult to get help because of fear or the need to project a certain reputation.
"Police officers in particular, you know they are trained to use violence. I mean they really are," Storey said. "That kind of sounds a little extreme but I've worked with police officers and they have these kind of automatic responses to stress that sometimes gets them into a lot of trouble."
Joshua Boren, 34, a Lindon police officer, is suspected of shooting his wife Kelly, 32, Joshua “Jaden” Boren, 7, Haley Boren, 5, and Marie King, 55.
Storey said police officers carry many stresses, from the work environment, the violence, post traumatic stress disorder and in many cases a tight income.
"They don't have the finances to get help," she said, noting that couples counseling can run anywhere from $100 to $170 and is not covered by insurance.
"They can't access professional help like they need and it just builds and builds and builds."
Coleman said some social expectations encourage many of the characteristics of violent aggressors.
"We support that kind of compelling sense of a man," she said, like running the household and being a strong person. "We have to look at what it's doing to the people around him. Are the people around him shrinking?"
Coleman said above all, members of communities should be willing to risk a friendship or professional relationship to save a life.
"Please risk that to save lives," she said. "I'm sure these incidents had red flags all around them."
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