Domestic violence, a largely unreported crime
Domestic violence represents the largest segment of unreported crime in the United States, and the fears of victims and stigma attached to being a victim often leads to a "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" mentality. FROM LEFT: Domestic violence survivor Luz Eva Hull, Norma Vandergriff and Natasha Coonrod. (ALEJANDRO DAVILA PHOTO / November 25, 2012)
This increase, Klein-Pritchard suggests, could be partly attributed to people losing their jobs and houses. Also, “What do people do here for entertainment? They drink,” she said, “and all that increases incidents of domestic violence.”
However, for Klein-Pritchard, legal and illegal drug abuse doesn’t cause domestic violence, it exacerbates it. In addition, “I don’t think its genetics, but I do think it’s a learned behavior.”
As Klein-Pritchard noted, the theorized causes of domestic violence vary from cognitive processes to genetics. It is known, however, that a strong predictor of domestic violence in adulthood is domestic violence in the household, reads the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress website.
A cycle of violence
“A child’s exposure to their father’s abuse of their mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting domestic violence from one generation to the next,” the site notes. “… This cycle of domestic violence is difficult to break because parents have presented violence as the norm.”
This intergenerational characteristic of domestic violence is of great concern to Klein-Pritchard, who said that once a child grows up experiencing domestic violence, it is very easy for him or her “to become either a victim or a victimizer.”
Brawley resident Natasha Coonrod, 24, is one who witnessed domestic violence as she was growing up, only to become a victim as an adult and a mother. “I can remember times when I saw my biological father choking my mother,” she said and added she’s now fearful about her daughter’s future since her daughter saw her father abusing her mother.
“I definitely don’t want that to happen with my daughters, so that is why I decided to seek help,” she said. “I need to stop the cycle with me,” said Coonrod, who left her boyfriend after he spat on her, pushed her through two doors and struggled on the floor before he was arrested.
And help is out there, said El Centro resident and survivor Norma Vandergriff. Vandergriff, who went through various abusive relationships for some 18 years until she ended up in the hospital, is a volunteer at the recently opened Family Justice Center, and an advocate who encourages anyone affected by domestic violence to stop the cycle.
“If there is a chance to get out, get out, and things do get better,” she said while noting the Center for Family Solutions and the Family Justice Center offer various services like survivors’ focus groups that she recently started.
“People should know that there are other people that they can talk to and be involved with,” said Vandergriff.
The Center for Family Solutions offers help with temporary restraining orders, child custody, relocation and safe house services, said Klein-Pritchard, who added that moving away from an abusive relationship is “not going to be easy; (people) need to know that from the get-go. It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it. There’s help out there.”
And help isn’t only available for victims but also for perpetrators. Eligible domestic violence parolees, for instance, are forced to take 52 weeks of anger management, said Chief Probation Officer Benny Benavidez.
The other side of the stick
Benavidez, who on Tuesday presented the county Board of Supervisors with a memorandum of understanding to share county resources with the Family Justice Center, said evidence-based practice programs, behavioral therapy and enforcement of court orders are being successful in rehabilitating parolees.
One example of success is Raymond Mendivel, an Imperial resident who while drunk and on cocaine punched his wife and gave her a black eye some 13 years ago. Mendivel, 33, graduated Tuesday from a “Think for a Change” program provided to parolees — some of them domestic violence victims and perpetrators.
Mendivel, though sober for years, acknowledged he went back to his addictions some three years ago and became a perpetrator of domestic violence in the form of emotional abuse.
He drank a lot and used dope and argued and yelled in front of his children.
“But one day I went back home and I (saw) my little girl, she was looking at me like scared of me. So I just opened out my eyes and I said ‘You know, I’m going to stop.’”
Mendivel said that his home is peaceful now. In addition, the program his parole officer had him take gave him a sense of accomplishment. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “this is my first thing ever to complete. I feel real good. I feel like I did something right.”
For more information about domestic violence services call the Center for Family Solutions at 760-353-8533 or the Family Justice Center at 760-353-6922
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com