As individuals, there are many ways for us to work toward ending abuse within our communities; we can stop victim blaming. We can intervene if we feel an individual is being pressured into unwanted physical activity or if their significant other is ignoring or mistreating them. We can alert authorities when we hear whispers of abuse, or threats of individuals taking their lives or that of their children if a relationship ends. Another way we can end abuse, however, is to support our local leaders making a difference.
Two Utah politicians are constantly moving forward bills and amendments to further free and empower survivors of abuse. Angela Romero of the Utah House of Representatives and Todd Weiler of the Utah State Senate, are enacting laws that are making a difference.
In 2015, Romero and Weiler introduced a bill defining what consent means. They proposed consent could not be given if an individual is incapacitated, and consent could not be given if the individual was unable, at the moment, to understand the consequences of their choice. The bill passed, and now these definitions of consent are used in Utah courts.
In 2017, Romero and Weiler introduced Sexual Assault Kit Processing Amendments. The bill required all sexual assault kits, except for those classified as restricted kits, to be tested and obtain DNA profiles. It also mandated that sexual assault kits be completed within a certain amount of time. The Department of Public Safety was given authority to implement a sexual assault kit tracking system, and the Department of Public Safety and the Utah Prosecution Council were required to provide training to law enforcement on how to respond to sexual assault cases. This bill passed and all provisions therein became effective on May 9, 2017.
Also in 2017, Romero and Weiler introduced Campus Advocate Confidentiality Amendments. This bill defined terms and made it clear who was responsible for reporting information in a case of domestic violence or sexual assault in a higher education setting.
In 2018, Romero and Weiler are introducing the Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Amendments. This bill proposes a cohabitant can be defined as an individual who, “is or was in a consensual sexual relationship with the other party.” By adding this definition, individuals who were not married or living together, but experienced abuse, can file for protective orders and seek safety within the courts.
The proposed bill also adds many responsibilities to law enforcement officers who are called to an abusive situation. The bill proposes, “A law enforcement officer who responds to an allegation of stalking shall use all reasonable means to protect the victim and prevent further violence including:… confiscating the weapon or weapons involved in the alleged stalking; making arrangements for the victim and any child to obtain emergency housing or shelter; providing protection while the victim removes essential personal effects; arranging, facilitating or providing for the victim and any child to obtain medical treatment; and arranging, facilitating, or providing the victim with immediate and adequate notice of the rights of the victims and of the remedies and services available to victims of stalking.”
The bill also requires victims of stalking be given a list of local shelters and directions on how and where to file a stalking injunction.
This bill will be discussed in the 2018 general legislative session, and a decision will likely be made in March 2018. We encourage each of you to let your representatives know you support Senate Bill 27, and we encourage you to reach out to Representative Romero and Senator Weiler and thank them for their work.
We can make a difference through our policies, laws and political involvement.