Fresno County's top law enforcement officials kicked off a campaign Monday against domestic violence by emphasizing that the crime is a form of child abuse and that today's victim often becomes tomorrow's offender.
District Attorney Elizabeth Egan called the crime "domestic terrorism." As of Monday, 71 children who are victims of domestic violence were staying at the Marjaree Mason Center.
Egan recalled a day when she was in court and overheard a man charged with domestic violence say, "my mother never called the police." That is the perspective that needs to be changed, she said. When children see an offender held accountable, they learn domestic violence is wrong, she added.
Egan was joined at the event at the Marjaree Mason Center in downtown Fresno by police chiefs Jerry Dyer of Fresno and Janet Davis of Clovis, and Sheriff Margaret Mims. Also present was Dale Mendoza, who heads the Crime Stoppers program in the central San Joaquin Valley. Victims and witnesses were urged to fight the crime by calling (559) 498-STOP.
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Dyer said his department investigated nearly 7,200 domestic violence cases last year.
The crime often is fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, and 70% of the time it is committed in the presence of children, he added.
For too long, it's been a "dirty little secret," Dyer said.
Ileana Herrera, a survivor of domestic violence, said the cycle of violence that often passes down from generation to generation can be broken.
"A lot of victims will stay because they say, 'my kid needs a dad,' " she said. But the risk they are running is that the kids may become victims or abusers themselves.