Stopping the violence: Police respond daily to domestic calls
It is a weeknight. A woman sobs in the background as a police officer talks to dispatch via radio. Neighbors have called the police too, worried about the argument next door.
They’ve called before.
As the officer radios the incident, her sobs escalate to screams, then simmer down to whimpers.
Those who listen to the police scanner on a regular basis know the code.
“He ‘242ed’ her,” the officer tells dispatch.
He hit her. The 242 stands for assault in California’s penal code.
It happens nightly in South Lake Tahoe.
Police respond to domestic violence disputes an average of one a day, according to Detective Brad Williams, who is in charge of domestic violence for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. On a per capita basis, that’s higher than other communities.
“It’s one of the most violent calls we could respond to,” said Williams. Drugs or alcohol are often involved, and escalated emotions, which may be turned on police. Lethal weapons are also often a factor, he said.
Ninety-two percent of all domestic violence incidents are crimes committed by men against women, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center served 1,639 people last year under its domestic violence programs, according to Anna Richter, grants manager for the center. Of those, 213 were perpetrators of violence who were mandated or chose to seek counseling or anger management.
“It’s a part of everyday life for so many people. There are so many people who live in fear,” Richter said. “Some people successfully escape the cycle of violence and others are stuck in it.”
And at least 200 people each year seek help for sexual assault, Richter said. Some of them are adults who are seeking help for child abuse which happened years ago. Many of the others are victims of rape by an acquaintance.
Williams points out that violence affects not only the family, but the entire community.
“Not only the neighbors and friends, but the children have to go to school, the people do not show up at work, due to embarrassment, maybe from a black eye,” he said. “It drains on medical resources.”
Many people who seek help at the Women’s Center say the same thing: “I didn’t think it could happen to me.”
Many say bringing awareness to the issue is the first step in stopping violence.
“I think the best thing we can do is bring awareness around violence against women, so that our society doesn’t accept it or tolerate it,” said Nichole Loftis, executive director of the Women’s Center. “Domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse; any violence is not acceptable.”
The message is, “There are people that can help you, you can overcome this,” she said.
A global movement to stop violence against women culminates this Sunday in V-Day, a day to bring attention to the fight. South Shore women are performing the Vagina Monologues as a fund-raiser for the Women’s Center at Embassy Suites. The show begins at 4:30 p.m.
The monologues are individual women’s survival stories, some of which are heartrending, some hilarious.
“It makes people think,” Loftis said. “They walk away and start thinking about how they can help with it.”
At the end of every performance, the host asks all those who have been survivors of violence to please stand. Then she asks all those who have known anyone who has been a survivor of violence to stand.
At last year’s performance in South Shore, the entire room was standing.
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