Vigil to highlight the need for awareness about domestic violence |

Vigil to highlight the need for awareness about domestic violence

Nan Chalat Noaker, The Park Record

In 2012, the Summit County Sheriff’s department responded to 109 domestic violence incidents. And, according to Summit County Sheriff’s Office Captain Justin Martinez, that number does not include cases handled by the Park City Police Department.

Martinez wants to see that number reduced to zero. He sits on the board of Peace House, a Park City-based shelter for victims of domestic violence, and is a member of the Summit County Domestic Violence Coalition, a group of representatives from law enforcement and health agencies that is dedicated to increasing awareness of the issue and ensuring resources are available when needed.

The two groups are hosting a walk and vigil on Tuesday to ensure the issue isn’t swept under the carpet.

According to Martinez, local sheriff’s deputies and policemen conduct regular training about how to handle domestic violence incidents, which are among the most difficult situations law officers face.

When officers arrive, he said, emotions are running high. That is compounded when children are present.

First and foremost, Martinez said, officers try to separate the parties and defuse the tension. Their priorities include protecting the victim, determining who is the aggressor and gathering evidence.

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"We try to get them away from each other so we can have a conversation," he said.

Too often, though, officers are not called in until it is too late. In February, Park City Police responded to an incident in which a man had violently assaulted his wife. And in April, sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene of a murder/suicide in Oakley where a man shot his partner as she was trying to move out.

Martinez hopes Tuesday’s walk and other outreach events will convince those who are in abusive relationships to reach out for help.

"We hope that a victim will make that call immediately even before becomes situation of domestic violence. If at any point they feel in danger, or uncomfortable, we want to get people the help they need," Martinez says.

Domestic violence may start as a verbal altercation, but can quickly escalate to pushing, shoving and punching. Once a weapon is introduced, Martinez says, "it is seconds away from becoming a tragedy."

He recommends calling the Sheriff’s Office or Peace House at the first sign of trouble. And, he adds, those calls can be made anonymously. Martinez points out that a variety of resources are available. "If someone is having trouble with a partner, they can call the Peace House and ask for advice about what to do next The earlier we can intercede, the better off both parties will be. But it all starts with that single phone call."

Martinez also stresses the important role that friends and family can play in indentifying an abusive relationship.

"They should be aware of the physical warning signs: bruising, battering, anything out of the ordinary like if someone sees someone who is normally outgoing turn into an introvert or covering their arms all the time."

He believes, "A true friend has an obligation to ask what is going on and be a resource."

This year’s two high profile cases highlight the fact that domestic violence isn’t confined to big cities. It also occurs in swanky resort towns like Park City and small rural areas like Oakley.

"Summit County recognizes that domestic violence occurs, and has taken a very proactive approach to identify victims he said while emphasizing it is not just a law enforcement issue. "We need to see what we can do as community to identify it and eradicate it."

The Summit County Domestic Violence Coalition and Peace House are hosting an Awareness Walk and Vigil on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 6 p.m.. The walk will begin at the top of Main Street and end with a candlelight vigil at the Kimball Art Center patio at the corner of Heber Avenue and Main Street. The public is encouraged to attend and participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the walk is scheduled to begin.