Domestic violence in Carson City: Family influence, alcohol, financial instability are the causes

Advocates to End Domestic Violence Case Manager Summer Norman answerss a potential "crisis call" recently.

Advocates to End Domestic Violence Case Manager Summer Norman answerss a potential "crisis call" recently.

On Sept. 21, a woman walked into the Carson City Sheriff’s Office to report a domestic battery from the night prior. The woman and her estranged husband, who she lives with, had gotten into a verbal argument and she tried to barricade herself in her room to stop the fight.

He broke the door open despite her pleas to stop, then he pinned her to the bed, ripped her shirt off and head-butted her multiple times, according to the arrest report. When officers spoke to the man the next day he said he got angry about the couple’s financial problems, but because he was drunk at the time of the fight, he couldn’t remember hitting his wife.

This is not an uncommon situation with domestic violence. Local officials name three big sources for these types of incidents: family influence, alcohol and financial instability.

Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong attributes alcohol as the biggest factor for domestic violence incidents.

“The root of domestics is alcohol,” Furlong said. “Of all of the factors, alcohol is the single biggest one because it just takes a little bit of alcohol to reduce your inhibitions. You do things that you wouldn’t normally do.”

In Carson City, alcohol was suspected to be a factor in an incident for more than 61 percent of offenders in 2014, according to the 2014 Nevada Uniform Crime Report.

Furlong said he has been given studies from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Department of Justice, which looked at domestic violence incidents from the past 20 years that shows alcohol is the more prevalent factor in domestic incidents.

The issue of domestic violence is increasing in Carson City, with at least 330 victims a year in Carson City, according to Universal Crime Reporting Statistics.

Camika Crawford, chief communications officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline said one of the factors for an increase in numbers is people are talking about domestic violence more.

“The statistics on domestic violence aren’t new,” Crawford said. “Now there’s a national conversation taking place about domestic violence. Things like the release of the Ray Rice video (last September) gave context and vocabulary to talk about domestic incidents.”

Furlong agrees, stating especially after the recent death of Carson City Deputy Carl Howell, people have begun to pay more attention to domestic violence and its destruction.

“I don’t want to look as if I am capitalizing on the death of an officer, but it brings the attention that we need to address this issue,” Furlong said. “Domestic violence has been around forever, it is just more prominent now because we talk more openly and because recently we have had domestic issues all over in Carson, Lyon and Douglas counties that have turned into deadly incidents.”

Another factor officials attribute to causes of domestic violence situation in the home is family and finances. Furlong said a lot of their calls come towards the beginning of the month when bills and other financial obligations are usually due.

“The beginning of the month is what we look at because it’s when the bills are due and things get heated in the home if money is tight,” said Furlong. “We look at things in the family such as finances that get people during higher stress periods.”

Lisa Lee, director of Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence said even if a family may be well off, if there isn’t much extra money for simple things like going out, being together in a home for extended periods of time can put a lot of stress on a couple.

“Even when there isn’t violence the biggest stressor on a marriage is not having funds to be able to go anywhere and you are stuck in the house,” Lee said.


A big reason why repeat domestic incidents occur is because of the difficulty for people to leave. People see with domestic violence the man or woman goes back to their abusive partner a majority of the time. However, Lee said with domestic relationships, the decision to leave isn’t always black and white.

Statistics show it takes a woman an average of seven times before she can successfully leave an abusive relationship.

If the couple has kids together, it may be difficult for the parent to justify leaving their partner. A majority of the time, victims believe if they are the ones taking the abuse from their spouse, then the kids don’t get hurt because the victim is deflecting that anger away from the children.

“A lot of them stay because the likelihood is that they are going to share custody and when they are in the house they can at least control some of the anger and direct it back at them instead of at the kids,” Lee said.

Jane, who will share her story in Friday’s Nevada Appeal, said her kids were the main reason she stayed with her abuser. If she tried to leave, her ex-husband would threaten to harm her kids by kidnapping them or making them watch as he murdered their mother.

“I want to stress — people who are in domestic violence situations, they may not be aware of any physical abuse that is going on with the children,” Jane said. “For me, I was very protective over my children even though I felt like I had no way out. I knew that they were witnessing what was going on with me, but I truly believed they were safe, that he didn’t focus his anger toward them.”

The threat of violence is a way many abusers control their victims. Jane said sometimes it was easier to be with her abuser because she knew the danger when she was there instead of the unknown danger of what would happen if she left.

The fear of being killed by their partner often outweighs the pain of the abuse for many victims.

“It becomes awareness, a lot of people are in unhappy relationships and you have options to leave that but when you are in a physical abusive relationship it’s different because you are really scared, things escalate really quick,” Lee said.

“A lot of people think that these relationships start off abusive but a lot of times people are a little possessive or controlling or jealous but you thought that was because he loved you. Fast forward a few years and things may have gotten tight money wise and then he shoves or slaps and you have kids together and he is sorry and then maybe it just keeps escalating.”

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an abusive relationship is sometimes hard to determine because possessive and controlling behaviors often start gradually and intensify.

“People always ask why she doesn’t leave, they never ask why he doesn’t stop hitting her,” Lee said.


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