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Number of domestic violence cases on the rise

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Posted at 5:59 PM, Oct 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-31 13:12:47-04

Two Utah women in two different cities were killed within the same day, allegedly at the hands of their boyfriends.

Marnie Stark in Ogden and Jennifer Brackenbury in Orem were found murdered on Oct. 20.

Domestic violence experts say even though Utah has come a long way in terms of identifying and combating the problem, these cases show there is a long way to go.

"We've had a lot of violence lately, a lot of violence. It's kind of crazy," said victim advocate Claudia McDonald.

McDonald has worked with Unified Police as a victim advocate and says she has seen the same routines played out time and time again in domestic abuse cases.

"It's all about power and control," said McDonald.

She sees families in crisis situations, renders aid where possible then tries referring victims to safe havens like the Utah Family Justice Center (FJC). But when domestic violence homicides happen, it causes everyone to reevaluate.

"It is so sad because I think we all know there are resources available and there's ways we can help someone in that situation," said McDonald.

Over the past two decades, the FJC has evolved from one, older building to a modern campus where those seeking to escape domestic violence can find shelter, counseling, child care services, police assistance and legal advice.

Despite the advances, experts say many victims still find it tough to leave their abuser, due to shame and fear, real or imagined.

"'If you leave I will kill you!' -- that's a common threat, so victims weigh that with how bad things are and what it's going to be like if they leave," said McDonald.

We may never know if Marnie Stark or Jenn Brackenbury received those kinds of threats or warning signs. What is known is that Stark's boyfriend, Jeffrey White, is accused of beating and kicking her to death in a fit of rage.

Police say Steven Gray allegedly stabbed Brackenbury multiple times then fled to Washington State before finally confessing his crime to police there.

Experts say a peak time for instances of domestic violence are the holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and even Halloween.