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Advocates encouraged about recent domestic violence numbers in Utah, first drop in fatalities in over a decade

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SALT LAKE CITY – Has anything improved when it comes to domestic violence and campus security in the year since Lauren McCluskey’s murder?  Victim advocates say there are reasons to be hopeful about the future.

Over the past three years, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition has been trying to get law enforcement agencies to adopt a uniform lethality assessment, which is designed to help officers recognize potentially lethal cases of domestic violence and prevent them before they happen.  Since then, roughly half of all LEAs in Utah have adopted this policy.

“We’re really excited and feel like this can be really promising, going forward,” according to Executive Director Jenn Oxborrow.

She also approached the University of Utah Police Department to adopt this protocol.  At first, former Chief Dale Brophy didn’t seem supportive, but, she says that changed after McCluskey’s murder.  Oxborrow also says University President Ruth Watkins was a huge backer of the policy.

“She prioritized the implementation of the lethality assessment protocol,” Oxborrow says.

How effective is it? Oxborrow says the data looks promising.

She says, “For the first time [since 2000], in 2018, we saw a decline in the number of domestic violence fatalities, which also includes suicides and officer-involved shootings.”

However, she says they’ve been fighting against decades of bad policy, so, it will take a while before domestic violence fatalities really go down.  Also, she says many students at the U of U still don’t feel safe on campus, even with increased security measures. Oxborrow says if the students are still unsure of their own safety, the campus needs to find out why.

“Whatever it is, we need to do more to create more environments where they can come forward and tell us how they’re feeling and what they’re reality is.  That’s true in every campus across Utah,” she says.