Utah domestic violence deaths spike in first half of 2023

Jul 25, 2023, 7:30 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — New numbers show a serious and growing problem in Utah, after domestic violence deaths spiked during the first half of the year.

The statistics, compiled and reviewed by KSL, revealed that 22 people were killed in these kinds of cases from the start of the year through June 30. That is 63% higher than the same time period last year and higher than the same time period in other previous years.

In nearly all the killings, a direct family member or a boyfriend specifically was accused of committing the crime.  And in all but two of the cases, the deaths were caused by gun violence.

South Valley Services explained Tuesday that the people who walk through the door at their community resource center may not be experiencing domestic violence in the way most people typically think before the violence escalates.

At the community resource center in West Valley City, people can get help and connect to resources.

Some domestic violence survivors and their family members may wonder if they’re truly being victimized when they come in.

“There’s an idea of, ‘Oh, I’m not being hit. I’m not being strangled. It’s not that bad,'” Josie White, development director at South Valley Services said.

White explained that even without any physical violence, domestic abuse can turn deadly, quickly.

“What we know is verbal abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse– they’re dangerous,” she said. “And they need to be treated with the exact same seriousness that we treat physical abuse.”

In domestic violence homicides, White said nearly half, just under 50%, involved no physical violence before the homicide itself.

The warning signs may be much less obvious and hard to detect by friends and family.

“Things like avoiding family functions, not seeing anyone, becoming isolated, flinching easily, startling easily, apologizing excessively,” White said, listing off the more subtle signs.

Positive behavior by a potential abuser is not an indication that there isn’t a domestic violence issue.

“There’s this idea of, ‘Oh, he’s so nice,’ or ‘She’s so gentle. Surely, she or he or they couldn’t be that person,'” White said.

But considering that one in three women and one in four men in Utah will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, White said everyone knows someone experiencing domestic violence whether they know it or not.

That likely means they know a domestic violence perpetrator as well.

“The person you might know and think is great, not only is manipulating their victim, but everybody around them,” White said.

Violence thrives in silence, White said.

That’s why South Valley Services encourages people to reach out and get help, whether it’s for themselves or someone they know.

“We know right now that rates of domestic violence and homicide are alarmingly high,” White said. “And what we know, too, is that we can only solve it as a community. And our work is made possible by our community and their support.”

Domestic violence resources
  • Click here to learn more about South Valley Services.
  • South Valley Services runs a helpline at 801-255-1095 for Salt Lake County and 435-231-3557 for Tooele County.

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Utah domestic violence deaths spike in first half of 2023