Domestic violence (DV) is a serious and widespread issue affecting women and families in Utah. One in three Utah women will experience some form of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime (33.6%), which is close to the national average (37.3%). Additionally, 41.6% of Utah women will experience psychological aggression, 35.5% will experience expressive aggression, and 36.4% will experience coercive control in their lifetime.
As a term, DV encompasses intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, and abuse from roommates or other people in the home. DV and intimate partner violence (IPV) are often used interchangeably; however, IPV is abuse committed by a current or former romantic partner, such as a dating or sexual partner, or by a partner in a committed relationship, such as marriage. DV is often presumed to refer only to physical violence; however, it includes many other forms of violence.
Domestic Violence in Utah
DV is a threat to the safety and well-being of Utah women. An estimated minimum of 552,117 Utah women have or will experience DV in their lifetime. In a 2009 Utah report, 61.0% of female DV victims said the perpetrator was a current or former husband or male live-in partner, and 26.7% said the abuser was a former boyfriend. Of note, an earlier study found that 21.0% of Utah women who had been DV victims reported being in multiple abusive relationships.
Domestic Violence Impact on Marginalized Communities
Rates of DV are higher across marginalized communities. National and global statistics suggest that White women experience sexual violence and DV at a lifetime rate of 34.0%. In comparison, only Asian women experience sexual violence and DV at lower rates (25.0%); Hispanic/Latinx women experience DV at equivalent rates (34.0%); Black women and individuals who are two or more races experience DV at higher rates (40.0% and 50.0%, respectively); and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women and Native American women experience DV at dramatically higher rates (68.0% and 84.0%, respectively).
In addition, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer + (LGBTIQ+) community members also experience violence at higher rates than other communities.
Domestic Violence Injuries and Fatalities
Over half of female homicides in the United States are committed by a current/former male intimate partner. In Utah, from 2009–2016, 22.7% of all homicides were related to IPV or DV incidents. About half of the IPV incidents were murder-suicide cases.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Teens
Children and teens are affected by DV within their household, as are neighbors and friends of the victim. DV committed in the presence of a child is considered to be child abuse in Utah, as it has long-term negative effects on the child (e.g., emotional, behavioral). According to 2020– 2021 data, there were 1,929 reported Utah cases of violence in the presence of a child. Previous homicide data reported that 44 children were directly exposed to a homicide (i.e., saw/heard it, found body), 11 of whom were under the age of five.
Additionally, dating violence is a form of DV that often affects teenagers and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. It can have negative long-term consequences such as substance abuse, poor mental health, and antisocial behavior.
Costs of Domestic Violence
Adult victims of DV report more long-term negative health and economic consequences than adults who have not been victimized. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, healthcare costs for those experiencing abuse are 42% higher than the costs for non-abused women. DV also imposes many costs on society, including medical and mental health services, criminal justice, and lost productivity. One analysis estimated the lifetime cost of DV was $103,767 per female victim and $23,414 per male victim, with a national economic burden of about $3.6 trillion across victims’ lives.
Services and Advocacy
Each year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) conducts a comprehensive survey that asks DV programs from around the country to report needs and services provided during the same 24-hour period. During the specified one-day period in 2021, 916 victims requested services from 14 DV programs in Utah. If that same number of individuals requested services each day, DV programs would receive 334,340 requests each year, or 38.2 requests each hour.
What Utahns Can Do
Access to resources and personal advocacy for friends and loved ones are key to preventing and decreasing DV. One of the most important actions each person can take is to know the signs of DV, believe friends and loved ones if they express concerns or fear about a relationship, and support them no matter what. We encourage all Utahns to explore available DV resources.
In addition, we offer the following recommendations, many of which are drawn from suggestions by the Utah Division of Child and Family Services about how to better support DV victims and strengthen DV services:
- expand funding and support for victims, including emergency funds, transitional housing, and trauma informed childcare services;
- use one lethality assessment protocol and one data repository for consistency and standardization;
- prohibit gun ownership for DV offenders who are a threat to themselves or others;
- adjust existing language within the law to extend or make continuous protective orders for victims;
- implement stronger consequences for DV offenders;
- provide support for residential treatment alternatives for offenders to reduce housing disruption for victims and children;
- clarify roles and responsibilities for local victim services and state agencies involved in victim services oversight and funding administration, and create a stakeholder committee that brings in an outside consultant to help create a unified strategic plan and make recommendations for resources;
- continue statewide needs assessments; and
- implement recommendations from the statewide needs assessment through legislation
We acknowledge that every number in this report represents costs in human lives and, as such, anything other than reductions in rates of DV constitutes failure. Preventing and otherwise reducing DV rates will improve the health and well-being of women and families in Utah and strengthen the positive impact of women in their communities and the state.
To learn more about domestic violence among Utah women, read the full snapshot.