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Davis Journal

Senate bill intended to protect victims of domestic violence

Feb 08, 2023 05:00PM ● By Becky Ginos

Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt talk to the media about their daughter Gabby who was killed by her boyfriend. They believe if law enforcement had used the Lethality Assessment Protocol her death could have been prevented. Photo by Becky Ginos

SALT LAKE CITY—A tearful Nichole Schmidt shared the story of her daughter Gabby who lost her life at the hands of her boyfriend in an act of domestic violence. Schmidt and Gabby’s father Joe Petito were at the Capitol on Monday to show support for a bill that is meant to protect those who are in a violent situation with an intimate partner. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson was also at the press conference to speak on behalf of her cousin Mandy who was killed in August.

Sen. Todd Weiler is sponsoring SB117 Domestic Violence Amendments that would mandate law enforcement to go through the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) questionnaire with the victim when they are called to an intimate partner domestic violence incident. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate on Monday and was headed to the House.

“The LAP only takes a few minutes,” Weiler said. “The most important question is ‘has he or she threatened to kill you or choked you before?’ If someone chokes in anger there is a high percentage that it will happen again. If the officer believes the victim is in danger they connect them with help.”

The bill also calls for a private database so when police respond they can run a name through it to see if that person has been involved in a domestic violence incident before. “If I get pulled over the police can run my license to see if there is a warrant out for my arrest,” said Weiler. “The police don’t have that for domestic violence. If they would have had that it might have prevented Mandy’s tragic death.”

“This is an important issue,” said Henderson. “The latest numbers show that 22 percent of homicides in Utah are by intimate partners who have prior interaction with law enforcement.”

If the LAP had been used Gabby would still be here today, said Petito. “We can’t save Gabby and Mandy but we can save other lives.”

The questions are important but it’s what follows that matters, he said. “We need resources, advocates, shelters. There are more animal shelters than domestic violence shelters by 2-1. That’s mind boggling. The goal is to get to where no (domestic violence) shelters are needed.”

Victims should know they are important, said Petito. “The world is a better place with you in it. You should not fear the one you love.”

“There was the horrible tragedy in Enoch,” said Weiler. “The oldest daughter had been choked by her father and told the police. This bill is only for intimate partners but I hope it makes all of us think about what we can do to give more help.”

“The LAP helps survivors get to a safe place,” said Schmidt. “I believe if Gabby’s case had been handled properly she would be alive. We’ve taken the lead to fight. We’ll go wherever we can to help.”

“Lives are at stake here,” said Petito. “Domestic violence is a serious issue.”

This is ongoing, Schmidt said. “We’ll work together to be part of the process. If we make a difference now and it saves lives we’ll do whatever we can.”

“We will not stop until domestic violence is eradicated,” Petito said. “If you are in fear of a loved one and you think you might be in danger, let someone know so you can take steps to find a way to exit the relationship. You deserve to be here.”

“You might think the relationship is normal,” said Schmidt, “But by the time you realize it’s not normal it’s too late.”