SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Students at the University of Utah held a memorial walk in honor of a slain student-athlete this afternoon, Oct. 21, while leaders on the city, county and state levels all gathered to discuss how domestic violence survivors and abusers are treated in this state. 

The students were walking in honor of Pullman, Wash., native Lauren McCluskey just one day before the fourth anniversary of her murder at the hands of a man she briefly dated. McCluskey, a U of U track athlete, was killed by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, after she dumped him when she discovered he had been lying about his name, age, and status as a sex offender. Rowland took his own life after the attack as police tracked him down. McCluskey had given at least 20 separate reports to numerous agencies about Rowland’s threats, all of whom failed to act.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was joined by Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, Salt Lake County D.A. Sim Gill, Rep. Ken Ivory and Rep. Angela Romero as part of a roundtable to discuss how to prevent a tragedy like McCluskey’s from every happening again.

“We heard from the top of the meeting this has never happened before at this level and we desperately need to keep this conversation going,” Mendenhall said. 

Ivory admitted state government hasn’t done enough in this matter. He said the average domestic violence survivor needs about $5,300 of care. 

“Right now the state’s providing a couple to a few hundred dollars,” Ivory said. He said the state needs to provide more funding to organizations like the McCluskeys’, and he said he hopes to help close that funding gap in this legislative session.

Leaders also addressed law enforcement’s role in keeping threatened women safe. They proposed universal intake forms and probable cause statements statewide. By using the same systems, all law enforcement agencies would be forced to take the matter seriously, and abusers can be held accountable by the criminal and judicial systems. 

“It can actually give consistency to a community response and problem,” said Gill. “Right now justice should not be the accident of geography.”. 

McCluskey’s parents — Kim and Matt McCluskey — say the road is long, but they’re seeing hope. Kim told ABC4 that U of U remains special to her family. The walk they’ve established in Lauren’s honor is there to remind other victims that there’s someone who can listen and believe when they’re being threatened.

“And that can help change the culture that responds poorly when a, when a young woman is in danger,” Kim McCluskey said. 

“Gradually, but for sure, it is happening,” said Matt McCluskey. “The cultures are changing,”