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Davis Journal

Bill would allow public to see records of potential dating partners

Feb 18, 2021 11:07AM ● By Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—When Lara Wilson met her husband on a dating website in 2016 he seemed perfect. Then six months later everything changed. 

“The first few months were wonderful,” Wilson said as she testified before the House Judiciary Committee last week in support of HB249 that would allow individuals to look up potential dating partners’ history through the state’s online public court system called Xchange.

“I had no reason to suspect that he had a history of violence,” she said. “But by six months he had me very isolated and he started to shove me and push me around. At seven months he admitted he’d had problems with his first wife and that he’d been convicted of domestic violence.”

Around that same time he fractured both of her eye sockets. “Not long after that I found out I was pregnant and the abuse greatly escalated at that time,” said Wilson. “I ended up in surgery three times to repair the physical damage done to me. I had several broken bones. My children and I were traumatized and I had to rebuild my life from scratch.”

The last time he abused her was in 2019. “I went to the emergency room and then to Safe Harbor Crisis Center in Kaysville,” she said. “It was a scary time for me. They helped me in every way imaginable. They provided me with clothing and hygiene items. They helped me obtain a protective order and held my hand while I made statements to the police.” 

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton is the sponsor of HB249. “A woman I worked with on a bill last year approached me about her friend Lara Wilson who had been terribly abused by her domestic partner,” he said. “She wanted to know if there was a way to find out if a person had a history of domestic violence and I thought it was a good idea.”

Abuse is a scourge on society, he said. “I started to contact people and talked to Michael Drechsel who is the Assistant State Court Administrator. He said they already have the Xchange system and we have to figure out a way to let the public in.”

These are already public records, said Handy. “Any person can go down to the courthouse and look at these for free. If a woman meets someone online and wants to check him out then they can access it (Xchange) from home online.”

Julie Valentine, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Research at BYU also testified at the hearing in favor of the bill. “Meeting online is the most common way of meeting people now,” she said. “There needs to be some way of vetting them. There is minimal to no screening on dating apps. We’ve seen a rise in rapes from dating apps. It’s incredibly concerning. Our research shows 202 rapes occurred right after meeting on a dating app.”

“This could save potential victims,” said Wilson. “If I’d known my ex husband's history I would not have dated him and suffered abuse. I wouldn’t have had to start my life over.”

“This is really necessary and the public should have access to it,” said Handy. “It (HB249) came out of committee unanimously, now it goes to the House.”