SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – A bill aimed at reducing dating violence is moving forward, a Senate committee heard House Bill 50 Wednesday afternoon.
Whitney Norton is a student activist who supports Dating Violence Prevention Act. Norton says dating violence and assaults are a major problem in Utah. “Sexual assault is the only violent crime statistic that we exceed the national average and we double it!"
Nationally one in six women will be sexually assaulted; in Utah it's one in three women. Currently under Utah law, women who are not either married, living with or have children with their abuser can't get an order of protection. House Bill 50 aims to change that.
Marty Liccardo, member of Men’s Anti-violence Network Utah said, "The bill doesn't have any protected class in it. The bill says it's going to protect people who are victimized by their partners."
While it sounds like a no brainer, the bill has faced some opposition.
Norton explained, "The concern is rather than writing a bill to protect people in dating relationships we should write a bill to protect all people. While that's a legitimate thing, we think that people in dating relationships are at a higher vulnerability than the general population."
Some lawmakers say it doesn't go far enough. For example, it doesn't protect people in casual fraternization like work or school environments, but supporters of the bill say those relationships don't often result in violence like dating relationships can.
Liccardo said, “What we want is to make sure our communities, and our streets, and our homes, more importantly our families are violence free.”
The bill passed the Senate committee and is now on its way to the full Senate. The only dissenting vote came from Senator Madsen, the committee chairman. His primary concern was that the standard to get a protective order was too low. He believes that two credible threats of violence should be required.