Deseret News

Utah saw 78 homicides in 2018. Victims ranged in age from just 4 months to 89 years old. At the close of each year, the Deseret News puts a name and face toeach one.

Scrolling through the faces is a powerful exercise as readers contemplate the fact that each untimely death also terminated personal and deep relationships with sisters, brothers, spouses or parents.

If any good news is found in the face of these tragedies, it’s that 2018 had the lowest number of homicides within the past four years.

But all homicides are disturbing, especially those that are the result of domestic violence. These almost always involve people who, at least at one time, loved and trusted one another.

Domestic violence is legally defined as “a crime of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim.” Every relationship is different, but domestic abuse generally involves an unequal power dynamic where one person asserts control over another. It can take many forms, including emotional, psychological, sexual, economic abuse or stalking.

Domestic violence is a major public health concern because it results in serious emotional and physical injury. And all too often, as 2018 showed us, it ends in death.

Anyone could experience domestic violence and abuse. Statistically, women are the largest victim group, but men and, tragically, children, like 21-month-old Jaycieion in the Deseret News report, also suffer. Jaycieion died after being left in the care of his mother’s boyfriend. An autopsy showed he had been hit and shaken.

Domestic violence is known as a “silent crime” because it generally happens behind the walls and closed doors of the home, and victims often are afraid or don’t know how or where to report the abuse and violence. Utah’s 2018 homicide statistics reveal that, too often, domestic violence is only exposed when it’s too late.

But victims of domestic violence needn’t feel helpless or alone. The first line of defense is to call 911. The Utah Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-897-5465) will provide callers with information on a variety of services and options.

There are several resources available in Utah to help those in need. The YWCA provides a 24-hour emergency shelter, transitional housing, child advocacy and intervention, child care and spiritual care. In addition, its Family Justice Center offers free, confidential walk-in services to victims. The center’s assistance includes protective orders, legal assistance, safety planning and short-term counseling.

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Other sources of help are the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, Utah Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Utah Department of Health Violence and Injury Prevention Program and the United Way’s 211 Program, where victims of domestic violence can call 211 and be connected to government and human service agencies that can help them.

There is no justifiable motive explaining why one human being would take the life of another. Not every tragic incident can be prevented, but some can, especially in the case of domestic violence. Better advocacy for domestic abuse victims and education about available resources is critical in lowering the homicide rate and preventing families from being torn apart.