Domestic Violence: Protecting Victims

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For ten years Heather Wolsey says she was physically and mentally abused at the hands of her husband. While she was able to escape the relationship, the torment didn’t end. Heather has stacks of protective orders and stalking arrest records to prove it. Despite three convictions against her ex husband, Heather says her life is still in danger. Now, Provo Police are proving Heather is right.

“I really felt like he loved me and he was the one,” Heather said, describing her ex-husband, Ronald.

The two were married in the fall of 1992. Heather thought she had found her happily ever after.

“We met at a dance and he was just so nice. He was great he was tall and handsome. Shortly after we were married things started to change,” she explained.

Heather said she began to see another side of her Prince Charming.

“He would start to get jealous or say things like, why did that guy look at you? And I was like, I don’t know,” she said.

Within a few years heather said that jealousy turned into physical violence.

“He would say that he would punch me in places where people couldn’t prove it. So like in the scalp cause you’re not going to find a mark or the top of the hip on in the stomach cause it doesn’t bruise as easily,” she said.

When the abuse escalated to the point where she feared for her life, Heather moved from her home in New York to be with family in Utah. She said that’s when the stalking began.

“I’ll call the police and file a report and the times they can catch him they arrest him but then he’s right back out again and it just doesn’t stop,” Heather explained.

ABC4Utah was able to find half a dozen police reports and court documents against Ronald Wolsey just in the state of Utah. Heather showed us even more reports from the state of New York.

Chief John King with the Provo Police Department said Heather is not alone and this kind of behavior needs to be taken seriously.

“It’s not just their spouse or their boyfriend or their significant other who’s having a bad day, they literally are in danger,” Chief King said.

That’s why the Chief introduced the Lethality Assessment Protocol to his department this year. Kortney Hughes has been teaching her fellow officers how to use it.

“The Lethality Assessment is an eleven question, questionnaire. But it’s scientific and evidence-based. The questions are pretty simple,” Hughes said.

Questions like, has your spouse ever threatened you with a weapon? Tried to choke you? Tried to kill you? Heather answered yes to 10 of the 11 questions, meaning her situation is highly lethal.

“It was really hard to hear them say that the likelihood I would be killed by my abuser is very high and that’s what they could probably expect and I don’t accept that,” Heather exclaimed.

Provo Police didn’t want to accept it either. So they took the findings to court.

“We then used that. We discussed it with the County Attorney. It was new to them and they used it in court,” Hughes said.

“Because of that we were able to raise his bail and keep him where he should be which is behind bars,” Heather said.

It was the first time the assessment was used by the Provo Police Department.

“I think it’s a really good idea but I think we could go farther,” Heather told ABC4. She said the court system has to do more to protect victims and they need to start believing victims. Because it’s only a matter of time before her ex is out of jail and on her doorstep again.

“It has to stop, I know I’m not alone in this,” Heather cried.

If you are experiencing domestic violence you’re not alone either. While the lethality assessment is not used in every police department, victim advocates are. If you need help you don’t have to file a report to get counseling. Simply call your local police department and ask for a victim advocate. You can also call the YWCA or Peace House in Park City for help.

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