Are you listening to "Cold"? I am. Over the last two months, I’ve listened to the weekly KSL podcast chronicling the disappearance of Susan Cox Powell. I followed the case closely as it unfolded and recalled the anguish I felt when I saw the news that her boys had been murdered at the hands of their father, before he took his own life.
The episodes point out and highlight a series of red flags. Susan knew she wasn’t safe. She told friends and left notes for co-workers that demonstrated she was well aware that her life was in danger, every day, by a controlling spouse.
Nationally, domestic violence-related deaths account for approximately 30 percent of all murders. Utah sits at 44 percent; nearly all of the victims are women.
Just recently, authorities say University of Utah medical resident Sarah Hawley was shot to death by her boyfriend, who then killed himself. This, just months after police say University of Utah undergraduate Lauren McCluskey was murdered on campus by an ex-boyfriend.
One in three Utah women experience the trauma of violence at the hands of an intimate partner or husband. We know this is an issue that crosses all economic, faith, racial and gender lines. We also know that domestic violence calls are the most dangerous for responding law enforcement officers. As a crisis line volunteer, I’ve heard the sound of fear myself from people experiencing physical and sexual violence. I’ve taken those middle-of-the-night calls and listened to tales of the trauma domestic violence brings — and I know we can do more.
Across the country, and in some police departments and organizations in Utah, law enforcement officials have implemented a program called LAP — the Lethality Assessment Program. The LAP is a method for law enforcement, health care providers, clergy, caseworkers or even family members to identify victims of domestic violence who are at high risk of serious injury or at risk of being killed by their intimate partners. The protocol includes an interview that helps identify high-risk victims and connects them to resources and support.Comment on this story
Preventing domestic violence is a matter of dignity, humanity and public safety. As a newly elected member of the Salt Lake County Council, I will identify the resources needed to integrate the LAP into Salt Lake County health services and into the culture of the Unified Police Department. I will advocate that Salt Lake County institute the program county-wide, and with the support of the five departments in the valley that have already adopted the program, begin leading the region in reducing the tragic deaths resulting from domestic violence. This paper has rightly called for community action on this very issue. Taking the measurable step of implementing the Lethality Assessment Program in Salt Lake County is a real way to save lives.
If you aren’t listening to "Cold," I recommend it. Though the signs of danger weren’t obvious to all who knew Susan Powell, it’s clear through the extensive interviews in the podcast that many did see the signs and believed she was in danger. With more awareness and better policies in place, we can work together to put an end to these preventable deaths.