With the governor calling for an investigation into what more the University of Utah and local police could have done to prevent the tragic murder of student Lauren McCluskey, it is essential society notes the missed warning signs and commits to preventing future intimate partner abuse.
Domestic violence is a uniquely invisible crime, obscured by the societal shame that often forces its victims into silence. This stigma not only increases the vulnerability of victims, it also increases the vulnerability of the public toward violence that could have been avoided if only domestic violence was made known.
Make no mistake: Domestic violence affects all parts of society. An estimated 12 million women and men experience some form of domestic violence in the U.S. each year, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Roughly 18 percent of Utah women and 10 percent of Utah men will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to the Utah Department of Health. Violence and abuse show no regard for socioeconomic status, gender or race.
Tragically, gun violence is too often the outcome of domestic disputes. More than half of mass shootings — usually defined as four or more deaths by a gun — involve family members or partners. The public discussion surrounding gun violence cites a number of extreme cases, meaning the tragic ubiquity of domestic shootings goes unmentioned in the news cycle. A few high-profile shootings dominate the discourse regarding mass violence in America, but these stories, and the way they are told, fail to capture both the reality and nuance of these seemingly random crimes.
Obviously, reform can and should be made, but as Deseret News opinion writer Savannah Hopkinson recently pointed out, those calling for policy reform after a mass shooting often miss the key warning signs that predate most public violence.
It is incumbent upon policymakers and politicians in Utah to take a broader approach to ending mass violence by prioritizing domestic violence awareness and unlocking greater resources for victims.
Of course, physical abuse is but one aspect of domestic violence. Spouses and partners can be the subjects of emotional, sexual or financial abuse, all of which degrade the victims and should be intolerable to the public eye. But therein lies a problem: Besides the physical violence that makes headlines, much of domestic violence goes unnoticed by the public.Comment on this story
Addressing this pervasive danger requires breaking down the stigma surrounding domestic violence and empowering those who are affected to share their stories in the hopes of informing the public of the prevalence of the problem.
Combatting this invisible crime requires greater outreach from public leaders, bystander training and intervention on a local level, and an investment in mental health, reporting resources and safe shelters. It’s the responsibility of all Utahns to make this state a safe harbor of hope for all who live here.
Help for victims of domestic violence is available from a 24/7 hotline: 1-800-897-5465 and at udvc.org.