Holidays and Domestic Violence
In the news last week you may have seen that Ukiah Police officers arrested a man who used an ax during a domestic violence struggle.
About a week before Thanksgiving, officers were dispatched to the Village Circle Apartments regarding an unknown disturbance. When they arrived, people at the apartment complex said that one of the people involved was armed with an ax. Shortly thereafter, our officers saw Jesse Rodgers holding the four-foot long ax.
Rodgers began to run from our officers, and they chased him through the apartment complex. Rodgers threw the ax over a fence and continued running. Our officers continued to chase Rodgers to a nearby field and ordered him to stop at gunpoint. They took Rodgers into custody without incident.
It wasn’t until after Rodgers was arrested that our officers learned he had been involved in a domestic violence struggle. During this violent struggle, Rodgers attempted to hit the victim with the sharp end of the ax. When he missed, he hit the victim with the blunt end. Rodgers then pounced on the victim and began trying to eye-gouge the victim. A friend tried to break this up and Rodgers punched her in the face. UPD officers arrived, and after a chase, arrested Rodgers.
Domestic violence incidents are not rare in Ukiah; in fact, they occur all too often. Last year, the Ukiah Police Department responded to 415 domestic violence-related incidents. These incidents ranged from shouting arguments to violent struggles.
Most police officers and deputies say that responding to domestic violence calls is one of the most dangerous aspects of their jobs – and one of their least favorite.
For an officer or deputy, dealing with a domestic violence incident means responding to a family home where emotionally charged people are in a verbal or physical struggle, and where they often have immediate access to guns, knives, or other weapons.
Domestic violence is not something law enforcement officers like responding to, but it is something we treat very seriously. In fact, each law enforcement agency in Mendocino County has adopted a strictly enforced single policy. If a law enforcement officer sees ANY evidence that domestic violence has occurred, that officer MUST arrest the suspected abuser for domestic violence.
And, as we all know, the holiday season can be very stressful – especially for families dealing with domestic violence. During the holidays finances are strained, we spend more time at home, kids become impatient, alcohol use increases, and tempers can be stretched to the limit. Sometimes, these combinations can lead abusers to take their frustrations and irritations out on family members.
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence says that although domestic violence may increase during the holidays, calls for emergency services related to domestic violence decrease through the holidays, but dramatically increase at the beginning of the New Year. Experts say that victims may try to keep a family together during the holidays, or hope that an increased family presence may decrease violence, but by New Year’s Day, victims have had enough of the violence and seek help.
In their blog The Dark Side of the Family, staff members from Every Mother Counts (www.everymothercounts.org) provide a number of recommendations to those who might be in a violent relationship:
- Start creating a safety plan by reaching out to a trusted friend.
- Research resources including shelters, hotlines and friends’ houses, but be careful to do your research on computers and phones that your abuser does not have access to.
- Study the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Safety Planning Site, www.thehotline.org/get-help/safety-planning
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- Call the police and press charges
Locally, victims can call 463-HELP (4357) to obtain help. Calling 463-4357 will connect people with a treasured organization in Mendocino County dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual abuse within our community: Project Sanctuary.
Project Sanctuary began in Ukiah in the fall of 1978 in response to the need for emergency shelter and support for women who were being abused by their partners. In 1980, rape crisis services were added to provide emergency response and counseling to survivors of sexual assault and abuse, making Project Sanctuary one of many "dual services" agencies in California. In 1991, Project Sanctuary established a counseling center in Fort Bragg, opening up access to services along the Mendocino Coast.
Today, Project Sanctuary serves more than 2,000 victims each year. With Project Sanctuary’s support and services, many families have had the opportunity to break the cycle of abuse, and individuals have been able to achieve greater personal growth and independence. Project Sanctuary also offers classes in women empowerment and anger management to help those who are victims of violence.
Project Sanctuary is not a "women's only" agency. With societal changes, more and more male victims are seeking help with issues like childhood molestation and/or partner abuse. Project Sanctuary can help anyone who is a victim of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse and assault without regard to gender or sexual orientation.
Most importantly, all of the law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County enjoy a positive, productive working relationship with Project Sanctuary, and know that victims who seek assistance through Project Sanctuary receive the best care possible. Project Sanctuary staffs a 24-hour resource telephone line with domestic violence counselors who can help victims obtain information, counseling, or simply ask questions about the cycles of abuse. Again, that hotline number is 707-463-HELP (4357).
In Ukiah, Project Sanctuary is located at 564 S. Dora St. Suite A-1. Their office phone number is 707-462-9196, and they are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can find them on the web at www.projectsanctuary.org or email them at email@example.com.
As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.