A beautiful summer day, an ugly topic the ever-increasing presence of domestic violence in Utah homes, oftentimes going unrecognized until it's too late.
The high-profile murder of Lori Kay Soares Hacking, a young, vibrant woman in a seemingly happy marriage, and several other recent violent domestic disputes across the Wasatch Front prompted advocates to join together Friday afternoon and urge an end to the growing trend.
"We want to end domestic violence in our community, and we want to end it now," said Judy Kasten Bell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council.
Standing behind Kasten Bell was a familiar face but also a new one to the advocate scene, Lori Hacking's father, Eraldo Soares.
"It is time for us to stand up and to think what has happened a year ago," Soares said, noting that Utahns last summer came out in force to look for his daughter, who was reported missing July 19 by her husband after she allegedly went for an early-morning run. "This year, I'm coming back to ask them to help us again."
Mark Hacking eventually confessed to shooting his 27-year-old wife the night before and dumping her body in a Dumpster at the University of Utah. He was sentenced last month to six years-to-life in the Utah State Prison.
Soares, who traveled from his home in Southern California for Friday's event, decried Hacking's sentence as "not acceptable" and pledged to work with the Utah Domestic Violence Council to pass "Lori's Law," which would create stiffer penalties in domestic violence cases.
"If we can save one young lady in the future, that will be worth me coming here today," Soares said. "If I can do that, at least I can say, in a small portion, 'thank you' to the people of Utah who helped me when I was desperate."
Brandy Farmer, past council chairwoman and a survivor of domestic violence, has agreed to work with Soares to draft legislation that would enact a sentencing enhancement that could be applied to cases involving domestic violence. Although it's still early, Farmer said Friday that her contacts with lawmakers have been well-received and she's dedicated to seeing the legislation through.
"I made a personal commitment, as a survivor, to help (Soares)," she said.
Mark Hacking reportedly told his defense attorney that he killed his wife out of love, wanting to "take her out of her pain," defense attorney Gil Athay said after Hacking's June 6 sentencing. Lori Hacking had recently learned that her husband of nearly five years had been lying to her about many things, causing her extreme emotional distress, Athay said.
Experts on Friday decried the notion that violence of any form emotional or physical has any connection to love.
"It is never, ever done in the name of love to help alleviate the pain of the victim," Farmer said.
Ned Searle, with the Office on Violence Against Women and Families, agreed. "It has nothing to do with love but plenty to do with life and death."
Many times, as in Lori Hacking's case, domestic violence goes virtually unnoticed, or perhaps unspoken, among even those closest to the victims.
During her 4 1/2- month marriage, Sarah Southerland, Utah Domestic Violence Council member and domestic abuse survivor, only went to the hospital once, when she needed stitches to patch together a bleeding foot.
"The other times I just bled quietly at home," Southerland said. "I put make-up on to cover the bruises and wore long sleeves. I had a black eye I think almost every week in our marriage for four-and-a-half months."
And despite the warning signs both she and her family members saw early on, it wasn't until her husband made her take out a $350,000 life insurance policy that she realized her life was in danger and she left her husband. Now, 10 years later, Southerland hopes to stand as a symbol that victims can become survivors and show young girls and boys that any abuse is too much.
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