SAN PEDRO – Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, cautioned Los Angeles Police Department Operations-South Bureau Deputy Chief Bill Scott and victims’ advocates at Peck Park on July 28 during the third in a series of town hall meetings to address incidents of violent crime in communities.
According to Scott, the goal of “Off-Ramps” is to educate the community on alternatives to violence and to glean advice, concerns and recommendations on deterring crime, public safety, and community policing.
Scott and a panel of community leaders, leadership groups, grassroots organizations, and law enforcement gave information and resources to help prevent, survive and overcome domestic violence.
Panelists were, Detective Patricia Batts, Officers Rigoberto Gonzalez and
Diana Estrada (all from LAPD Harbor Area), Kenny Green (gang interventionist at Toberman House), Reginald Carter (DCFS Regional Administrator), Eve Sheedy (City Attorney’s Office), Bernita Walker (Domestic Abuse Response Team/D.A.R.T.), Terry Wilson (Good News Ministries), Natalie Salazar (Crime Stoppers), and Detective Yvonne Ortiz (LAPD Domestic Violence Coordinator).
The first two Off-Ramps meetings were on human trafficking and internet crimes against children. The remaining will focus on gang violence/gang communities, gun violence, family violence and police/community relationships.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person though fear and intimidation, often including a threat or use of violence,” Scott explained.
“Studies indicate 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime,” Scott cited from statistics. Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults a year in America, he indicated.
“A lot of times people think of domestic violence and they only think of women being victims of domestic violence but it’s not limited to women at all,” Scott said.
More than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year, and those children also suffer abuse, he continued.
According to various studies, children often intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent. That places them at great risk for injury or even death.
LAPD community relations officers distributed pamphlets on stopping crime and listing resources, including information for domestic violence providers.
Panelists answered questions about shelter options for victims, how children of victims are protected, and other dynamics of domestic violence.
According to advocates, L.A. County’s housing crisis has meant longer shelter stays for families, not just because of the need to heal, but because they live in a city where stable, low income, affordable housing is scarce.
Just a small percentage of people actually need shelter, stated a representative of Rainbow Services, which seeks to end the cycle of family violence. She explained that emergency shelters are for people who are at immediate risk of harm because of abuse.
“It’s a temporary stay, usually for about 30-35 days, so that the family can get safe, stabilized, and figure out what their next step is going to be,” she said.
Because it is for high-risk families, it is not easy for a family to go into a emergency shelter, she stated. She elaborated, “All shelters kind of operate by different rules, but for the most part, because it’s a confidential, secure place, people may have to give up their jobs because the abuser may know where they work … they may have to pull their children out of school and move them in a school that’s closer to the shelter.”
Walker said parenting and anger management classes are important tools for surviving domestic violence. Often times an abuser who doesn’t know how to handle situations turns to violence, she said.
“Most people don’t understand all the dynamics of domestic violence. It’s not just somebody hitting someone … It’s financial, educational. A of victims don’t even get a chance to get into school, because the abusers will know that if they get an education, they’ll be able to get away from them,” Walker stated.
Each year for the past several years, Harbor Area received approximately 48,000 calls for service specifically related to domestic violence, said Batts. She said they know there are obviously many more calls that are domestic violence related because the numbers do not account for instances where neighbors here someone screaming on the phone or they hang up while calling 911.
In addition she said there has been an increase in domestic violence over last couple of years. I’d like to think, and I think our department would like to think also that because of these community meetings, because of the outreach from our D.A.R.T. program, because of our poster campaign, that’s the community is responding and is having more confidence to report
to law enforcement,” Batts continued.
According to advocates, there is an increase in minors under 18 abusing one another. One service provider said she probably gets two teens a week, but that wasn’t the norm. “Increased violence in society is making people act out,” she said.
Advice to parents and families with teens involved in cycles of domestic violence varied.
No one can be forced to file crime reports, especially minors, advocates said. They encouraged parents to file restraining orders, and add their children.
“It was a wonderful meeting. They had a good panel. However, they were speaking to the choir for the most part,” said Hortensia Moore of Project: PeaceMakers, Inc., which caters to victims of domestic violence.
Police officers and domestic violence advocates pretty much know the issues, but there was a real lack of community involvement at the meeting, Moore told the Sentinel.
One reason could be people’s distrust of the legal system, generally, Moore said. “You’d be surprised how a lot of people are suffering from domestic violence, but aren’t saying anything,” she stated.
She recommended going directly where people who are suffering are, such as the projects, community centers, or domestic violence agencies.
“People live behind the old adage, what goes on behind closed doors stays behind closed doors, but statements like that are passed on from generation to generation and that’s not a Black thing…nobody likes to out their dirty laundry, so people are suffering in silence,” Moore said.