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She Grew Up with Domestic Violence. Today it Shapes her Police Work
August 4, 2016

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Here is a horrifying statistic: At least 1 in 3 women and girls will be subject to gender-based violence or abuse during their lifetimes.

According to the United Nations, less than 40 percent of these victims will seek help. Those who do usually reach out to friends or family. Only rarely — less than 10 percent of the time — do victims reach out to the people who can best help them end the abuse and find the resources they need to move on: the police.

Las Vegas policewoman Cindy Rodriguez is well aware of this. Actually, she knows it firsthand.

Growing up, Rodriguez witnessed her mother’s abuse at the hands of her father. “I saw how domestic violence could occur in a household since I was very small,” she said. To prevent her mother from leaving, her father threatened the life of a loved one. Her mother eventually left the marriage, but endured years of financial hardship, aided only by the fact that her daughter was old enough to take care of her younger brothers.

As a law enforcement officer, “it was really important for me to have that experience myself,” Rodriguez said. Because she understands why domestic abuse victims stay with their abusers, she is better prepared to respond to domestic violence calls.

She said in a typical scenario the abuser, usually male, gets caught or for some other reason pledges to end the violent attacks. After a brief “honeymoon phase” the violence resumes almost without warning, triggered by anything from a casual remark to a burned dinner. But the victims often stay.

“He woos her. She obviously loves him. There may be financial difficulties. Maybe she doesn’t work. Or there are children involved,” she said. There are already clear consequences to ending the partnership, “and now you bring the abuse aspect into it and it just complicates things even more,” Rodriguez said.

To help mitigate this, Rodriguez said, the same officers will routinely patrol the same areas — whether in a rural region where most people know each other, or a defined city precinct — and regularly interact with that community. When a call comes from a neighbor, or from someone within the household, the officer knows immediately if the complaint comes from a location that the police had already visited. The officer is able to spot abusive patterns and offer appropriate assistance. She also said police are using social media to circulate public-service announcements, including telling victims how to get help.

Help spread the word that domestic violence is a crime and give victims a voice.

Take your pledge to end gender-based violence (GBV) in your communities at yali.lab.dev.getusinfo.com/4her.