Domestic violence advocates push for help in Utah legislature

Posted at 5:38 PM, Feb 07, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The issue of domestic violence captured the attention of those at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday.

In an emotional meeting, advocates of domestic violence victims pushed for several legislative measures on the table for this year's session.

"It took the death of my daughter to realize that they're even there and to appreciate the work that they're doing," Kent Mayne said of the group of statewide organizations working to prevent domestic violence and homicide.

Mayne's daughter, Amanda 'Mandy' Mayne, was shot and killed by her ex-husband last August.

"This was after years of incidents where law enforcement were called in the two days preceding her murder, the police were called during those two days," said Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, whose cousin was Mayne.

Henderson said there weren't proper resources for law enforcement to help her cousin.

"What happened was there was just a lack of communication between agencies," she added. "The lack of tools that law enforcement needed to be able to connect the dots and recognize that she was in danger and that the offender was a high-risk offender."

Henderson now hopes to close those gaps through support of a bill which would require law enforcement to perform "lethality assessments," asking those believed to be in a domestic violence situation a series of questions about fear of violence or past threats.

"They're asking some questions about risk and then when that person is at high risk, they're connecting them to a community-based provider through their phone," explained Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Jennifer Campbell.

Senate Bill 117 would also create a database where domestic violence calls would be tracked and accessible to law enforcement agencies so they would know if they are responding to a home with prior family disturbances.

"You don't have to motivate me or law enforcement officers that see this to care about our victims," said Tom Ross, Executive Director of the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

Supporters in the capitol were on board for not only Senate Bill 117, but also other legislative measures, including a $50 million request for victim services and domestic homicide prevention in the state budget.

"It'll change the landscape for survivors and getting access to services," said Campbell.

Henderson said she hopes the momentum on the issue this legislative session will continue in order to give advocates the resources they need to protect people like her cousin.

"They need funding," she said, "They need better synergy and I think we're in a position to do some really big things this year."