SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Tuesday was a big day for domestic violence advocates at the Utah State Capitol. Experts counted 15 bills in the legislative session so far that will affect survivors of domestic violence.
Jody Robinson, a survivor, returned to the Capitol again this year for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition’s (UDVC) Advocacy Day on the Hill. Although she wasn’t fully comfortable sharing her story of survival yet, she said she wanted to lobby on behalf of other victims.
“My children and I want to prevent others from going through what we did,” said Robinson. “Our case has been very long and drawn out and complicated, especially within the systems.”
One of the bills Robinson is passionate about is H.B. 253, sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, which aims to strengthen the use of GPS tracking technology in domestic violence convictions and pre-trial protective orders.
“With the way our system is set up, all of the victims have to go into hiding essentially and completely disrupt their life. Until we can work on getting some things changed for that, it’s just very disruptive,” said Robinson. “In my case, my children were disrupted with school and everything that made it more problematic. As we start implementing things like GPS technology, that will help keep some of that normalcy for families.”
Other bills that are on UDVC’s radar are:
- H.B. 17, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, which allows families to petition for law enforcement to remove a firearm from of the home of a person at risk of suicide
- H.B. 19, sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero and Sen. Todd Weiler, strengthens the protective order process and jail release agreements
- H.B. 137, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Pitcher, extends the duration between domestic violence offenses for purposes of applying a penalty enhancement
- H.B. 209, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, enables a family member to ask the courts to restrain a person from possessing firearms for a specific length of time
- H.B. 190, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Stoddard, which holds the gun owner accountable if they let someone else borrows their firearm and commits violence with it
H.B. 190 is also known as ‘Lauren’s Law,’ named after Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah track and field athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in October.
“We’ve seen a tremendous number of bills come forward, I think, as a reaction to that terrible tragedy at the University of Utah, which was so preventable in so many ways. It actually would have been Lauren’s 22nd birthday today,” said Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director of the UDVC.
She expressed concerns with H.B. 243, sponsored by Rep. Christine Watkins which modifies provisions related to a victim of domestic violence or dating which allows violence so that they can carry a concealed firearm without a permit.
“We’re trying to work with leadership to make sure that people understand that when a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, it increases the likelihood that a woman in that environment will be killed by 500 percent,” said Oxborrow. “Sometimes, people who are defending themselves end up serving a very long sentence for manslaughter charges as well. So there’s a lot of thinking error around arming survivors. That’s something we’re very concerned about.”
Oxborrow said UDVC is also working on three funding measures for domestic violence prevention, housing, and child care.