Bill to protect pets from domestic violence abuse clears Utah House

Legislation to include pets in personal protective orders easily passed the House on Friday

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The Utah Legislature is one step closer to allowing pets to be included in personal protective orders after the House approved HB175 by a 69-2 vote on Friday.

According to sponsor Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, 71% of women at domestic violence shelters say their abusers also threatened, injured, or in some cases, killed their pets “as a means of control.” She said 25% of survivors return to their abusers because their abuser threatens them with their pet.

“I know people always ask me why I run sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking legislation, and I think I do it because someone has to be that voice,” Romero said. “And in the time of COVID right now, there are a lot of people in very vulnerable situations. I want to make sure that we continue to say, ‘We see you’ and they get the help they need and they protect themselves, their children and their pets.”

2021 report from the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice found the U.S. saw an 8.1% increase in domestic violence instances over the first year of the pandemic. Isolation, job loss and the stresses of child care and homeschooling may have contributed to the increase, according to the report.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee endorsed HB175 last week, with all present committee members voting in favor. The bill allows individuals to petition the court to include pets on a personal protective order or stalking injunction — whether the pet is owned by the victim or by the abuser.

The bill would have Utah join 35 other states with similar laws, Romero said.

Rachel Heatley spoke in support of the bill during a committee meeting on Jan. 21, calling domestic violence a “secondary pandemic” brought on by the isolation caused by COVID-19. Heatley is the advocacy director for the Humane Society of Utah.

“What we see here is a significant problem of interpersonal violence,” she said, referencing a Farmington man who was arrested last year for abusing several women and torturing animals that belonged to them — including decapitating a cat and waving the severed head around “to terrify her while he laughed.”

Abigail Benesh, an attorney with the Humane Society, said there is a “significant correlation” between domestic abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse and child abuse.

“Abusers often exploit the emotional attachments that victims have with their pets,” she said. “That has them become pawns in this cruel game of coercion, manipulation and control in order to create an environment of fear and induced compliance.”

Residents — many of whom were victims of domestic abuse — also urged the committee to approve the bill. Inguinn Tersten said her teenage daughter has a brain disease and spinal cord injury, and they rely on a service dog to alert her if her daughter needs medical attention.

“My daughter’s service dog was severely used to threaten us as we were trying to break out of an abusive relationship,” Tersten said. “Every time we tried to get out my ex would control it with the dog. He knew we wouldn’t leave the dog behind because of what the dog does for my daughter.”

Jessica Gonzales said she had been in an abusive relationship where her boyfriend would threaten to lock her dog outside in freezing temperatures if she didn’t come home. She eventually escaped, but said it took weeks before she was able to testify before a grand jury in order to get her dog back.

“If a bill like this would have existed, I probably would have left a lot sooner,” she said.

Reps. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, and Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, were the only two “no” votes in the house. The bill now goes to the Senate, where the floor sponsor is Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville.

Ride for Awareness 2022 Update

julei and dins ride for awarensss julie mcmahon and din thomasOn January 8th, Julie McMahon’s and Din Thomas’ Ride For Awareness Event will be supporting Operation: Safe Escape! Every year, these to amazing people do a bike ride across Florida for charity. 2022’s January Ride for Awareness will be for OSE! The two-day ride, currently planned to start on January 8th, will take Julie & Din across the state, from Titusville to Clearwater. Operation: Safe Escape will be giving away prizes and swag, and sponsorships are now available and OSE will also have swag available at our upcoming swag store in December!

As always, your generous donations make a huge impact on survivors and their families.

Additionally, if you or someone you know may be interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, we would LOVE to feature you. There are Silver, Gold, and Platinum donation levels for our sponsors, at $100, $250, and $500 levels. If you’re interested in helping sponsor this event, please reach out to Tony Hunt at tony@safeescape.org and he will supply more information for Sponsorship.

Here is the link for the event donations:
https://app.theauxilia.com/Event/ride_for_awareness

Thank you all for your continued support!

-Tony

 

Join Us for Giving Tuesday

Sometimes, around this time of year, I think of Jane and her children. Jane isn’t her real name, but her story’s real and she’s allowed me to share it.

It seemed to Jane like everyone around her would get excited about the holidays and look forward to the presents, family feasts, and togetherness. But Jane’s household was one of the 10 million in the US alone impacted by domestic violence. Instead of waking up excited to see what was under the Christmas tree, Jane’s children knew to be quiet so no one got hurt. It was no way for Jane or her children to live.

By the time I met her, she had already tried to escape her abusive relationship three other times. But each of those times she either got caught while planning or found after she left. She didn’t know where else to turn. When she came to Operation Safe Escape for help, she was terrified that if she were caught again, it would be disastrous. And she might have been right.

I’m happy to say she escaped with her children and even their pets. She was finally free to start a new life, finally feeling safe. But the story doesn’t end there. Christmas the next year, Jane sent us a message. It was untraceable and private, just like we taught her, and it was saying how it felt to finally have a Christmas that she could enjoy with her children. For the first time, she could wake up with her children and make all the noise they wanted. They could celebrate and play, and no one was afraid. I’m not going to lie, I cried when I read that message.

Jane and her children are just one of the over 3,000 people or families that we’ve been able to work with. It’s what we do- we work with survivors or domestic violence, stalking, harassment, and other forms of abuse to help them escape and stay safe after they do. Our team of safety and security experts work to help give the advantage back to the survivors, helping them make their escape plan, think of the countless things they need to do to avoid getting caught before they can leave, make it out safely, and navigate all the various things they need to do to in order to stay safe and move forward. We also work with domestic violence shelters, safe houses, social workers, and other allies to help them protect themselves and their clients. In all, we provide the equivalent of over $25,000 in assistance and services to each client, all without charging a dime.

But we need help to keep doing it. The computer forensics, advanced security tools, burner phones, secure communications devices, ride credits, and so much more are only available to us because of generous donations and gifts from people like you. Last year, we supplied over 2 million dollars in security services free to survivors and support organizations, and we anticipate an even greater need through the end of this year and into the next. We’re working hard to save lives and help real people escape abuse, even when they have nowhere else to turn.

For this Giving Tuesday, please consider donating to Operation Safe Escape. Every dollar goes directly towards client support and program costs, so you can make a difference today.

You can DONATE HERE

julei and dins ride for awarensss julie mcmahon and din thomas

Julie & Din’s Ride for Awareness is coming this January!

julei and dins ride for awarensss julie mcmahon and din thomasHere is some amazing news.

Every year, Julie McMahon and Din Thomas do a bike ride across Florida for charity. 2022’s January Ride for Awareness will be for Operation: Safe Escape!

The two-day ride, currently planned to start on January 8th, will take Julie & Din across the state, from Titusville to Clearwater. Operation: Safe Escape will be giving away prizes and swag, and sponsorships will be available first week of December (next week!) OSE will also have swag available at our upcoming swag store in December!

The People:
Julie McMahon is a Floridian Life Coach and avid advocate for safeescape.org and livetrained.com.
Din Thomas is a Coach, a former Pro MMA Fighter and as well as being an ally in our mission.

We will be psting more news here on the website as things progress.

The landing page for the event will be https://safeescape.org/rideforawareness

FTC bans stalkerware company and CEO from spying on individuals

In a landmark case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has banned SpyFone and CEO Scott Zuckerman from selling stalkerware apps, which were used to secretly harvest and share data on people’s movements, phone usage, and online activities in a way that wasn’t easily detectable by the victim. In addition to fines, the company is required to delete all stored data and notify users that their phone had been compromised.

The FTC has taken action against stalkerware companies before, but this is the first time they’ve been able to secure a sales ban. Equally important, the requirement to inform users that they have been compromised will expose related forms of abuse and empower survivors to take additional legal action.

 “SpyFone is a brazen brand name for a surveillance business that helped stalkers steal private information,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The stalkerware was hidden from device owners, but was fully exposed to hackers who exploited the company’s slipshod security. This case is an important reminder that surveillance-based businesses pose a significant threat to our safety and security. We will be aggressive about seeking surveillance bans when companies and their executives egregiously invade our privacy.”

Read the full FTC press release here
Read the legal complaint against SpyFone here