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Amid string of domestic violence homicides in Utah, advocates work on prevention

Posted at 6:41 AM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 11:48:43-04

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Police agencies across Utah are investigating a recent string of domestic violence homicides, but there are also advocates working diligently behind the scenes to prevent crime like that from happening in the first place.

Merari Lopez with the Taylorsville Police Department has a straightforward and simple mission; helping crime victims, especially those in a domestic violence relationship.

"No matter how intense is this job, I want to continue here because I love to help people in these situations," she said.

Her passion for this issue stems from her own personal experiences.

An immigrant from Mexico, Lopez wound up in Las Vegas as a mother of five who didn't speak English and had little education. Her husband also became increasingly violent with her and her children.

"You're afraid to make the report, because who's going to help you?" she said. "If you don't get the help you have to go back with him and it's going to be worse - If you call the police they are going to deport you, they're going to remove your kids."

One day, she'd had enough and packed up her family. They moved to Utah to be with a relative and Lopez learned English and enrolled in community college.

That's when she met other women who had similar stories.

"And I go; 'Oh, I thought it was just me? That's when I start to open my eyes and see that this is a big problem," Lopez said. "And then I go; 'I want to speak English, I want to be successful because I want to help people.'"

In 2008, Lopez started working for a domestic violence shelter as a victim advocate. Then she worked for West Valley City Police before landing with Taylorsville Police.

There are days when the job is overwhelming, Lopez said, especially when there's a domestic violence homicide. But she also explained there are victories along the way.

"They just come and say; 'I'm another person, I'm not afraid anymore, my kids they're in school so my kids are not afraid,'" she said. "And I have a few cases like that and that makes me so happy it's worth it."

Domestic violence victim resources (free, 24/7, confidential):

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition:
    • Hotline: 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
    • Online help: udvc.org
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately.