Domestic violence homicide calls attention to glaring trend

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The apparent domestic violence homicide case in Cottonwood Heights Monday is another example of the ongoing tragedy of domestic violence in our neighborhoods.

A victims' advocate says there's an increase in violence, if not in the number of related deaths.

"Our economy is having a dramatic impact on domestic violence and how people respond to what's going on," said Judy Kasten Bell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Council.

At least 10 Utahns this year died at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends or others whose love turned to rage. The victims lived in every kind of Utah community; they ranged in age from a teenager to 54 years old.


In the death of Touch Choum in Cottonwood Heights, her husband, Dennis Lambdin, told police he stabbed her to death. Police do not know the motive but say there is evidence of a lot of rage.

The Cottonwood Heights case is not complete, but it adds another victim to a lengthening list. Bell says the bad economy is one reason for an alarming surge in domestic violence.

"There seems to be an increase in violence. There is also, contributing to it, that people are not wanting to leave dangerous situations, because where are they going to go?" Bell said.

Domestic violence shelters may be full and victims may not have the money to move. Last year, Utah shelters housed more than 3,000 people.

Bell says a poor economy does not cause domestic violence, but it can stress already unhealthy relationships.

**What to do if You Need Help** ![]( you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, tell a friend, a neighbor, a family member or co-worker. **For immediate help call 9-1-1**. If you decide to leave a violent relationship, do not act alone. Threatening to leave may increase the danger. Call the Utah Domestic Violence Link-Line at 1-800-897-LINK (5465) which is available 24 hours daily for resource information. Your call is confidential and could save lives.
She says Utah has reduced domestic violence, thanks to public education and diligent, caring work by first responders and workers in shelters. But the number of domestic violence-related deaths continues to stagger even those who deal with it every day. In 2006, Utah had 29 deaths related to domestic violence; 20 of those committed with firearms. In 2007, there were 18 deaths. Last year, there were 22 deaths.

The violence this year is on pace to match that number, but Bell says many battered spouses survive too. There are many success stories across the state every day.

"Victim advocates and law enforcement and all first responders are saving lives every day, but we don't know how to count them. Unfortunately, we know how to count the deaths," Bell said.

The victims' advocates says we can all help by recognizing risk factors and violent behavior around us. Paying attention, they say, and have the courage to call for help.


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Jed Boal


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