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In Utah, getting a protective order and good lawyer is free

In Utah, getting a protective order and good lawyer is free (Photo: KUTV)
In Utah, getting a protective order and good lawyer is free (Photo: KUTV)
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(KUTV) A recent rash of domestic violence homicides in Utah, has shed light on the value of protective orders.

In Utah, no matter your income, if you feel your life or safety are threatened, you can get a free lawyer to help you get a protective order at no cost.

The Legal Aid Society of Utah, provides the free service to help victims of domestic violence. You can connect with one of their lawyers by calling 1-800-897-LINK.

Stewart Ralphs, Executive Director of Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, said the state courts provide online forms to secure a protective order on your own but the chances of you getting the order are much higher when you use the help of a qualified attorney.

According to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, only two percent of domestic violence homicide victims in Utah had a protective order -- 2010-2013.

Why so few victims get orders is not known for sure, but Ralphs believes there is still a stigma surrounding domestic violence and people still don’t want to talk about it openly.

While Ralphs believes protective orders save lives, he said most victims endure abuse for years before they try to secure an order.

In Utah, there are four types of orders available:

  • Co-habitant abuse order
  • Child protective order
  • Dating violence protective order(for people who are not living together)
  • Civil stalking injunction (no relationship to perpetrator)

Ralphs said protective orders are most effective when they are paired with a safety plan that includes neighbors, family members, friends and co-workers looking out for the victim and keeping an eye out for the perpetrator.

The legal aid society can help the victim come up with a safety plan too.

Ralphs said surveys show victims and their children benefit from the court orders.

“Ninty percent of our clients report that they are safer and there’s been no further domestic violence,” he said.

Sarah Larsen, a resident of Utah County, moved to Utah 30 years ago to save her life.

Her first husband, whom she married at age 18, was violent and threatened to kill her.

“If I had stayed, he would have killed me,” she said.

Larsen fled to Utah alone, with no guidance or knowledge shelters or any other protections.

She came to Utah and her ex followed her and beat her in her apartment. He was jailed, but bailed out by his parents the next day.

In court, the judge made a strange and offensive comment that made her feel the abuse was her fault.

“You must have that boy twitterpated to have him come out here and go to jail for you,” she recalled the judge saying.

Now living with a loving husband and her two children, Larsen encourages any victim to seek a protective order and to know that life without violence can be a reality.

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“You can have a good life. You deserve to have a good life,” she said.

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