Domestic violence (DV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) range from physical, emotional, sexual, mental, and verbal abuse from either a person in the same domestic household of a person or a person who wants to be intimate with another person. DV and IPV can have lasting consequences on a woman’s health, including emotional trauma, lasting physical injuries, and chronic pain, and even death.1 Statistics show that having guns in a household increases the perpetrator’s possibility of using a firearm in their violence towards a victim. Almost half of the adult homicides per year are from DV situations, and often guns are the weapon of choice.2
Status of Literature
Utah has had a higher rate of DV compared to national rates. Nationally one in four women will experience DV or IPV in their lifetime, and in Utah, one in three will experience DV or IPV.2 The repercussions of DV are significant. 42% of adult homicides since 2000 in Utah have been related to DV, children witness 22% of DV homicides, and guns are commonly the weapon of choice for male perpetrators in DV homicide.2 Understanding these statistics is even more critical today because many people, including Utahns, have been more isolated and at home with abusive partners due to COVID-19. Evans (2020) is calling for additional research around the impact of COVID-19 and increasing DV rates. However, anecdotally, there appears to be higher rates of DV due to many of the COVID-19 restrictions ranging from social distancing, isolation, quarantine, and shelter in place.3 When we can understand the impact of the COVID-19 and DV, we can provide better services and programs to support victims.
With over 70% of female homicides in Utah being related to domestic violence, concerns about providing more protection for women is an essential part of social policy legislation.4 Individuals experiencing domestic violence are often at high risk of death by intimate partner homicide. In homes where domestic violence is occurring, the presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of a woman being murdered by their male intimate partner to 500%.5 Furthermore, 50% of all intimate partner homicides were committed with a gun, indicating that guns are the primary weapon used in intimate partner homicides.5
Call to Action
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) addresses individuals convicted of domestic violence and the possession of a firearm, but there is no language about relinquishing firearms.5 Ultimately, gun ownership is considered a state’s right, and Utah’s recent legislative session passed H.B. 229, marketing the bill as a suicide prevention act, including specific language about a requirement to relinquish firearms.6 The law requires that individuals have the option of surrendering firearms to law enforcement when the protective order is served or within 24 hours to a federally licensed firearms dealer.6 Although this does provide relinquishment language, there is a significant gap of 24 hours where a domestic violence victim could be murdered by their partner before turning their guns in. Furthermore, the law doesn’t include specific language for victims of domestic violence. The best way for concerned community members to support extreme risk protective orders is to reach out to local legislators to make sure Utah’s extreme risk protective orders include specific language about relinquishment of firearms in cases of DV and IPV, as well as require that firearms are surrendered only and immediately when the order is served to the respondent. In addition, people in Utah can work with UDVC to ensure that DV and IPV victims can have the protection and safety they deserve especially during the times of national crisis. Such as our current COVID-19 pandemic, when many legal processes and hearings are becoming delayed.
1. Frost, C., & Digre, K. (2016). 7 domains of women’s health: Multidisciplinary considerations of women’s health in the 21st century (1st ed., pp. 1-224). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing.
2. Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (UDVC). (2016). UDVC Facts Sheet. Policy & Reports. Retrieved +December 1, 2020, from https://www.udvc.org/resources/policy-reports/reports.html
3. Evans, D. P. (2020). COVID-19 and violence a research call to action. BMC Women’s Health 20, 249. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-020-01115-1
4. Utah Department of Health. (2019). Domestic violence fatalities in Utah: 2003-2008 (pp.1-48). Salt Lake City, UT: Violence and Injury Prevention Program.
5. Díez, C., Kurland, R., Rothman, E., Bair-Merritt, M., Fleegler, E., & Xuan, Z. et al. (2017). State intimate partner violence-related firearm laws and intimate partner homicide rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 167(8), 536. doi: 10.7326/m16-2849
6. Utah Legislature, H.B. 229 Extreme Risk Protection Order§ 78B-7-604(5), (2020) Retrieved from https://le.utah.gov/~2020/bills/static/HB0229.html
Freed S and Coffey R (2021). Extreme Risk Protective Orders and Reducing Intimate Partner Homicides. Utah Women’s Health Review. doi: 10.26054/0D-WGNC-36WX