Like you, when I read the words “San Bernardino Shooting,” my heart sunk, initially thinking about the tragic incident that took 14 lives there in 2015, but this time it hit deeper. This time, the event was domestic violence related and as an advocate I can feel my body tightening up and a sense of frustration coming over me.
Not another life, not another incident, not another community.
Working with law enforcement in the Emergency Response Program, I can relate to the frustration officer’s feel when they get a repeat call to the same house. There’s the insistent question of why this abuse perpetuates and how much you wish it didn’t.
Why IS the cycle of abuse so relentless? Why aren’t we able to PREVENT events like this from happening? What CAN we do differently?
I draw a blank when trying to respond to these questions myself.
Looking at the recent shooting of educator Karen Elaine Smith, what stands out the most is the part about her family saying that she heard his threats and didn’t take him seriously. Words do matter and threats are worth heeding. When these situations come up in the news people wonder where the police were and why they didn’t respond sooner, but don’t ask why they weren’t called sooner or why intervention wasn’t made before things escalated.
Working with law enforcement, I hear first-hand accounts about how challenging responding to domestic violence calls are. Intervention is complicated, both what officers can actually do and what survivors are willing to disclose is limited. Being trauma-informed, I’ve learned that there are many layers to domestic violence and there are many reasons why a survivor may be reluctant to give information to police. It supports the need for partnerships like the one CORA has with law enforcement to exist all the more. At the same time, I have learned to appreciate the roles that each of our community partners play in fighting domestic violence.
From law enforcement, to government officials, to legal services, and to domestic violence advocates and agencies, preventing incidents like the recent San Bernardino tragedy requires intentionality and the intersection of community partners to support. Each role provides a valuable service that no other part can provide and when done to support the client, there is the greatest potential for a good outcome. Preventing domestic violence can seem like a daunting task, but as a team effort, we have the best luck at making a difference. I’m grateful for the work of our community partners and I’m glad that when it comes to domestic violence in San Mateo County in the words of Twisted Sister, “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emily Fleming earned her BA in Sociology with a minor in Political Science from Cal State East Bay. She also holds a license in Cosmetology. After listening to her clients talk about obstacles their lives, Emily put down her shears to pursue a career empowering people to overcome them. In pursuit of her passion, she has interned under Congresswoman Lois Capps in Washington D.C learning about public policy, traveled as a guest speaker teaching teens about Dating Violence Prevention and has worked with survivors of abuse both as a Sexual Assault Counselor and an Orphanage Volunteer in Argentina. In her free time she can be found running, traveling or taking over a dance floor.