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For week ended November 21, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Graham Disputes Abuse Remarks

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Graham Disputes Abuse Remarks
Salt Lake Tribune 20Nov99 D2
By Hilary Groutage: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- State Senator Parley Hellewell, a member of the LDS Church, has came under fire last week for comments he made suggesting that women on welfare might encourage abuse to get welfare benefits. His comments and those of fellow state senator Lorin Jones were made during a meeting of the Workforce Services Legislative Interim Committee last week. The comments have been attacked by advocates for domestic abuse victims.

Utah Attorney General Jan Graham responded to the comments by apologizing publicly for the Senators' remarks, "I can at least apologize to every victim of domestic violence, to every child. I am sorry your state leaders made such hurtful comments," said Graham at a news conference at the Salt Lake City YWCA, which operates a battered women shelter.

The Senators made their comments while considering legislation that would increase the time domestic abuse victims could get welfare benefits beyond the state's current 36 month limit. They worried that some women might induce abuse to get the extra benefits.

Senator Jones apologized for a poor choice of words, but insisted that some women might use the law in ways not intended, "If someone only needs to go in with a couple bruises and get back on cash assistance, why, then it's a pretty cheap way to do that," he said. "It's not inconceivable to me to think that someone would do that. I'm sorry if I've offended some of the ladies' groups, but if they're naive enough not to believe that would happen, I'm sorry. We should not be tempting families who are destitute to do these things. They do get very creative"

Hellewell, who once served as an LDS Bishop, says he understands the nature of domestic abuse, It's a serious problem, but my belief is we're going about it all wrong, we need to take care of the abused, but also get rid of the problem that's causing the abuse." But Hellewell didn't back down from his position that this extension of benefits might be taken advantage of.

The proposed legislation was tabled in the committee, according to Jones, because the proposal was vague an didn't define the extent of abuse necessary to qualify.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information