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Domestic violence poses a danger to all, including responding police officers. What can be done to break the cycle?

Local organizations not only connect survivors with important resources, but also educate the public on what abuse looks like and what to do when you see it.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Tuesday, May 11, Stockton Officer Jimmy Inn lost his life while responding to a 911 call. 

According to Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones during the memorial service for the fallen officer, he was on "one of the most dangerous types of calls we respond to: a domestic disturbance."

According to police reports, Officer Inn arrived at the scene and knocked on the front door of a home where neighbors told police they had heard a woman screaming. Then, suspect Lance Lowe allegedly opened the door and shot Inn multiple times. Lowe was later shot and killed by another responding officer.

"Domestic violence calls for police are some of the most dangerous situations they encounter because emotions are running high behavior can be unpredictable," said Stephanie Player, Program Director of the Women's Center-Youth and Family Services (WCYFS).

The WCYFS offers direct services and outreach for a variety of community needs, including domestic violence and homelessness, in the San Joaquin County region.

Local organizations like WCYFS not only connect survivors with important resources and aid but also help educate the public on what abuse looks like and what to do when you see it.

"With domestic violence, it's really centered around abusers seeking power and control over their partners or their family," said Player. "When an abuser feels as if they are losing control over the relationship, the abuse typically escalates to extreme forms of violence, and they use this as a means to reestablish their control over the situation or their relationship."

Domestic violence-related police calls make up the single largest category of calls received by police, accounting for roughly 15 to more than 50 percent of all calls based on the department, according to a report from the Department of Justice. The report also found domestic violence disproportionately affects Black women.

Officer Tara O'Sullivan was a Sacramento police officer who was shot and killed, also while responding to a domestic disturbance. 

The accused shooter, Adel Sambrano Ramos, had a lengthy history of domestic violence dating back to 1998. He was arrested or accused of domestic abuse several times leading up to the shooting.

Nilda Valmores, Executive Director of My Sister's House, a Sacramento-based organization that primarily serves Asian and Pacific Islander women and children, said that an escalation of violence is seen in many cases.

This is what makes those 911 calls threatening for police officers.

"From my perspective, they're dangerous because when someone is called in that intensity of where that cycle is, it usually means that there's a big explosion coming…Which means that explosion is usually demonstrated physically in some way," Valmores said.

Sometimes by the time the police are called, the violence is already too far escalated.

"The one thing that we do know, or that history has taught us, experience has taught us, is that usually people's explosions just continue to get worse and worse," Valmores said.

WCYFS and My Sister's House ultimately aim to make sure domestic violence situations never get to that point in the first place by helping survivors, educating the public, and working to stop the cycle of abuse.

"Early intervention is really key, connecting those individuals who are experiencing domestic violence to providers that specialize in those types of services really will help them — to empower them, to plan for their continued safety and understand the dangers of domestic violence in their relationship," Player said.

According to the WCYFS website, there are a few indicators that can tell you if someone you know may be in an abusive relationship. 

WCYFS lists these behaviors as indicators:

  • Does she/he seem afraid of her/his partner?
  • Are they constantly apologizing for their partner’s behavior?
  • Are they unable to go out with friends or family because of their partner’s jealousy?
  • Has she/he ever been forced to have sex?
  • Have they been denied money or barred from getting a job?
  • Have they been threatened with arrest or being reported to the authorities by their partner?
  • Has she/he been hit, kicked, shoved or had things thrown at her/him? Ever been kept from leaving a room by resistance or been blocked at a doorway?

Player says recognizing the red flags is the first step, but many people may not know what to do once the problem has been identified. 

For example, someone's first instinct may be to start planning a rescue or escape. However, a victim of domestic violence may not believe they are in an abusive relationship, or may not have the financial means to leave.

"That's where agencies like us can really step in because we are specifically here to 24/7 through our hotlines or walking into our offices," Player said.

Valmores adds that other factors come into play when there are children in the relationship. 

She said that in her recent work at My Sister's House, she's seen at least three women in their seventies in need of the organization's services.

"Even though the stress may be getting worse, their young adults or their adult children are telling them to stay in this marriage," Valmores said. "You know, stay together in spite of the fact that these are unhappy women and stressed-out women. People don't know what's happening behind closed doors."

Player echoes that idea when talking about 911 calls for domestic disturbances. She points out that it is behind those closed doors where a 'squabble' can become violent.

"It's important that we utilize the tools that we have in our community, like law enforcement, to be able to intervene in those situations and not just stand by and say, 'it's just a normal little argument or squabble or whatever,' and excuse it as acceptable because that's how these situations can be perpetuated in our communities," Player said.

If you or someone you know may be in a violent relationship, WCYFS and My Sister's House can help. 

Here is how to get in contact with both organizations:

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