Fresno County woman shares story of surviving domestic violence

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Saturday, December 17, 2022
Fresno County woman shares story of surviving domestic violence
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Capturing a true number of people experiencing intimate partner violence is virtually impossible, as the fear of reporting is often paired with a fear of an abuser.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Research surrounding domestic violence in Fresno County shows it is a growing problem.

However, capturing a true number when it comes to people experiencing intimate partner violence is virtually impossible, as the fear of reporting is often paired with a fear of an abuser.

Right now for calls, officers are only required to report prior domestic violence incidents, drugs, alcohol and strangulation or suffocation.

Meaning if a parent says their child was not a witness to violence or home at the time of the abuse, they're not required to document it.

"I grew up in a household full of violence and abuse. Physically, verbally, emotionally as well. I just didn't know this was something that I had to speak up. I didn't even know what domestic violence was," said Star Luis, a survivor of domestic violence.

At just 16-years-old, Luis made a call that likely saved her life and that of her mother and siblings.

"I came out of the closet and I saw the sheriffs with my dad, and it gave me relief. Yes, I was heartbroken but I was relieved knowing my family was going to be safe and all that nightmare was over," said Luis.

Luis says prior to that day, the abuse was constant. Her father cut her mother off from all forms of technology.

So, the only way to get help was to take matters into her own hands.

"She would write on her hand "help" in Spanish and on her window, you know, the car window. She would have it there in hopes that someone would read her hand and call 911," explained Luis.

They were staying in Cantua Creek in Western Fresno County at the time. Star knew to call 911.

Responding sheriff's deputies helped their family connect with emergency shelter at the Marjaree Mason Center, a safe haven they didn't know was an option when moving around.

The now 22-year-old says it took years to realize the bravery she showed that day.

"If you want to end generational violence there has to be an intervention with those kids," said Fresno Police Sgt. Marissa Jackson.

Sgt. Jackson says experientially, because of under or non reporting, the number of children that witness abuse is much higher.

Many parents think if it isn't seen, it's unknown.

"They're not understanding that vicarious trauma is still occurring the children are still hearing it they're still tasting the fear in the air they're still touching mom when mom is bleeding and helping mom clean herself up sometimes the kids are the ones that call 911," explained Sgt. Jackson.

Once a child is listed as either a victim or "other," in a police report, they're entitled to state funded therapeutic services and crime victim assistance depending on the type of crime.

"They have to worry about their children right and often they don't see the detriment that in the trauma that's impacting the children as well," said Leticia Campos, deputy director of the Marjaree Mason Center.

Campos says the longer time a child spends in an unhealthy home the more likely they are to become a victim, offender or both.

"When children walk through our doors we see the same behaviors, the same characteristics as the victim," said Campos. "We see the anxiety, we see the depression, we see the withdrawing, we see the disruption in the classroom."

A survivors journey to heal is lifelong, but Luis says breaking the cycle of abuse is possible thanks to lessons in healthy relationships she learned through services at the Marjaree Mason Center.

"Yes, I still struggle with my triggers but I have a therapist that's there to provide me tactics to overcome my triggers," said Luis.

She's now a senior at Fresno State studying Criminology with an emphasis in victimology.

"I was once a victim with my family, but now we're survivors and I want victims to know they don't have to stay like that forever they have that power to change that," Luis said.

Luis will be interning with the Marjaree Mason Center as she wraps up her senior year, really working toward making her journey from victim to survivor come full circle.

What many people don't know is Marjaree Mason Center also offers peer counseling for offenders.

Soon, they're going to implement case management for offenders looking to make healthy choices and navigate next steps.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, or you know someone who is, there is help available 24/7. In Fresno County, call the Marjaree Mason Center at (559) 233-4357. In all other locations, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.