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West Jordan Journal

Over 1,000 calls for domestic violence in West Jordan alone

Aug 24, 2018 02:04PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Domestic violence is a widespread problem, even in West Jordan. (Pixabay)

By Erin Dixon | erin@mycityjournals.com

In 2017, West Jordan police officers responded to 1,713 calls for domestic violence.

Domestic violence is not a crime that is not just for “other people”; the poor or for those already under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Sergeant J.C. Holt from West Jordan police has responded to countless of domestic violence calls from every walk of life. 

“[T]hese are not people with a criminal history,” Holt said. “I’ve been involved in investigation with medical staff, fellow police officers from other agencies where the police officers were the perpetrators. It’s every single social class that you can imagine.”

The number of domestic violence reports has increased in recent years. However, this is not necessarily an indication that it is becoming a bigger problem; it may simply mean that it has always been behind the neighbors closed doors. Through several organizations, people are becoming more aware that violence in their home is unacceptable and that there are resources to get help. 

“There’s been a lot more education and outreach in the form of advertising for help, such as South Valley Services,” Holt said. “They have a housing facility where they have approximately 60 beds where they house both male and female victims of violence.” 

There are two local organizations that provide immediate and long-term help for those in abusive relationships. South Valley Services (https://svsutah.org/en/home/) and Utah Domestic Violence Coalition (http://udvc.org/). Both websites have “safety exits” that erase the history on your device so no one else can tell that you have visited. 

Close relationships mean higher stakes

Because of the personal nature of the crime, successful prosecution can be difficult. In Utah, there is a spousal protection law, which means that a spouse cannot be forced to testify in court. 

“In Utah, we have what is known as the spousal privilege act,” Holt said. “It is a law that protects you from having to be forced to testify against your significant other. Oftentimes, they’re back together trying to fix their relationship; the suspect manipulates the victim into not testifying, which is illegal.” 

Or, a victim will not cooperate with police to follow through with the accusation because of the psychological consequences in an abusive relationship. 

Sometimes, victims will simply not show up to court, and the case must be dropped. Police must then rely on their own evidence for prosecution, if they have any. 

Prosecution without cooperation 

Conviction often needs to come from police reports because victims are unwilling to follow through with the prosecution. Holt described a case when the victim was not cooperative, but there was still a successful prosecution. 

“[One victim] basically told the judge, ‘I’m not willing to talk.’ I was the detective, and I [ had] interviewed her outlining all the abuse and it was recorded,” Holt said. “[W]e had several pictures we had taken. The court decided to move on without her cooperation because we feel like this guy needs to be held accountable. It was a success.” 

“That’s what we want to do; we want to hold these offenders accountable, and we want to be pretty aggressive with our approach and our enforcement. [W]e have a pretty good team approach, and our prosecutors are super aggressive.” 

Why is violence in the home such an extreme problem?

“The whys behind all of it have to do with raw emotion of the situation,” Holt said. “Children relationships bring the most sensitive of feelings to the surface for most people. We live in a society where family is important [which] seems counter-intuitive. If people could keep their emotions in check and not lead to actions, police would have a lot less work to do. It’s a very emotional crime.” 

Abusive situations are complicated and damaging

For someone not in an abusive relationship, tolerance of domestic violence may come as a surprise. A victim will stay in a relationship for myriad reasons that don’t make sense to others. 

“There’s a lot of psychological effects that go into effect with victims,” Holt said. “It is really about power and control and manipulation.” 

“That [psychological] process doesn’t stop after a police report has been filed or even after a person’s arrested. Generally, it will continue, these victims that get left behind they’re easily manipulated back into the cycle abuse that they’ve had over such a long time.”

People may stay in an abusive relationship because they are afraid what will happen if they try to leave; they may be dependent financially or physically; or they may have low self-esteem and feel deserving of the treatment. Some people have a great love for the abuser and wish for the violence to end, not the relationship. 

A long-term struggle 

It is not uncommon for the same police officers to respond to the same family’s calls, year after year, to just diffuse the situation. 

“These people are fighting at home, and they have children,” Holt said. “As a veteran officer, it’s really sad when you go into a house to assess what’s going on, and there’s kids there, and they act like there’s nothing wrong. They’re watching TV; they’re coloring; they’re just hanging out just like it’s another day to have a police officer there. That to me is very telling. We have victims that come in after an incident, and we learn that there’s an established history that’s been going on for years, and finally they get the courage to go to the police.”

Recently, Holt was involved with a victim who had endured the violence in her marriage for 35 years. She finally decided that she could tolerate it no longer and has cooperated with the police to have her spouse prosecuted. 

Are 1,700 cases in a single city unusual? Holt thinks the numbers are typical for any city in the valley. 

“I don’t think we’re above or below average,” he said. “We’re in the normal.” 

If you or a loved one need help with an abusive relationship, call this free and confidential hotline: 1-800-897-LINK (5465) 

For more information to cases involving domestic violence, see the article here from July 2018. http://www.westjordanjournal.com/2018/06/29/176183/the-struggle-to-prosecute-domestic-abuse-drug-abuse