Breaking the cycle of domestic violence

Courtesy of Ninocare/Pixabay

Anyone who has ever dealt with domestic violence first or second-hand will tell you that it is a cycle that affects victims – and witnesses – year-round.

So even though Domestic Violence Awareness Month was in October, we thought it important to mention again and list some resources that might be helpful to victims in Fresno County.

Charity Susnick, Director of Development and Communication at the Marjaree Mason Center in Fresno, said her organization offers a holistic range of services – not just emergency housing.

“As an agency, we are so much more. Of course emergency services are a huge component, but we also offer counseling,” Susnick said. “On any given day, 60 percent of our safe houses will be comprised of children who are caught in the middle of a domestic violence dispute.”

According to the Marjaree Mason Center’s website, it offers: Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing, Counseling, Legal Assistance, Support Groups, Domestic Violence Education, 24-Hour Hotline & Crisis Intake, Therapy, Safety Planning, Victim Advocacy, Human Trafficking Services and Children’s Services.

The Shelter Program has grown to include three safe houses in Fresno, Reedley and Clovis that provide emergency shelter to victims of domestic violence and their children.

“The Center offers counseling for adults and children and we also have a robust legal program that helps victims obtain restraining orders and take their abusers to court,” Susnick said. “We are here to say ‘we understand what you are going through and we are with you’ by offering emotional support during the whole process.”

“People need to know that domestic violence is different than sexual assault – we are really looking at a cycle of generational family violence,” Susnick said. “So we offer a lot of educational programs as well.”

The Center has educational programs at high schools all around Fresno County, teaching healthy relationship techniques to teens.

“1 in 3 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 will suffer from domestic violence, versus women who are 1 in 4 and men who are 1 in 7,” Susnick said. “A lot of these kids don’t have good role models. They think abuse is a healthy part of a relationship.”

One thing that makes the Marjaree Mason Center different from other domestic violence organizations is that it provides services to those who have committed acts of domestic violence to help prevent them from committing violent acts again, and to encourage positive parenting and strong families.

The Center works with the Fresno County probation office, offering a 52-week Batterer Intervention Program, anger management classes, and parenting programs, which is mandated by the courts, according to Sgt. Jim Koch with Clovis Police Department.

“We really appreciate our partnerships with various charitable entities,” Koch said. “The District Attorney’s office works really closely with us to make sure the victims get the assistance they need.”

“We work actively with all law enforcement,” Susnick said. “Matthew Basgall, Clovis chief of police, is a board member.”

One of the ways the Marjaree Mason Center works with law enforcement is with their 24/7 hotline, (559) 233-HELP.

“Calls in Clovis aren’t as high as in Fresno city or county but no matter your neighborhood, your income – none of that matters. Domestic violence still happens.”

“As a county, the call volume [for domestic violence] is 63 percent higher than the state average,” Susnick said. “That’s about 7,000 calls a year to the hotline. This doesn’t include 911 calls or any other methods of reporting an incident.”

Susnick said that even though there aren’t a lot of calls coming from Clovis, it doesn’t mean domestic violence isn’t happening.

“We get calls to the hotline a lot from family and friends asking for advice, ‘what do I do?’ and we have to tell them to keep listening,” Susnick said. “It’s a process. [Plus], if the victim isn’t ready to leave, there isn’t much we can do but listen and be supportive.”

The Marjaree Mason Center accepts in-kind and monetary donations to help victims of domestic violence. For more info, contact the organization’s business center at (559) 237-4706.

Kelsey Lester-Perry
Kelsey is an award-winning reporter from San Jose who recently moved to Clovis. Her previous work experiences includes the Spartan Daily, La Voz Weekly, and the Gilroy Patch.