Carson City Sheriff’s add domestic violence victim advocate
As a way to combat domestic violence in Carson City, the Sheriff’s Office and Advocates to End Domestic Violence teamed up to bring Carson’s first law enforcement victim advocate.
Through a grant obtained by the Advocates to End Domestic Violence, the two organizations were able to create the Victim Advocate Law Enforcement (VALE) program. This program brings an advocate, Brenna, inside the Sheriff’s Office to help assist deputies, detectives and anyone inside the department with victims to help follow up and counsel for traumatic events, especially domestic violence.
“She is a wonderful addition to the office and well overdue,” said Sheriff Ken Furlong. “As we look at family related issues that police departments and Sheriff’s Offices have to go through and to have an advocate sitting in our office is a critical component.”
The hope is Brenna will be able to either meet with anyone who comes to the Sheriff’s Office or follow up after a law enforcement-involved incident to provide support, resources and help to the victims.
“She will do the follow up and call and say ‘I understand officers were there last night, my name is, how can I help you?” said Lisa Lee, director of Advocates.
Brenna works through Advocates, but is located at the Sheriff’s Office in order to utilize the officers to identify domestic incidents where law enforcement was called but no arrest made.
“We view her assistance here as a preventative step or resource for avoiding domestic violence or violence in domestic disturbance calls,” Furlong said. “The point is to provide resources and an advocate before that violence erupts.”
The hope is to alleviate tensions within the household by providing possible solutions to the problem in order to prevent a major and potentially violent incident later down the road.
“If a domestic disturbance is to the point where the couple is fighting that loudly where people are concerned enough to dial 911 or call dispatch, then there needs to be some sort of help or assistance given to them,” Brenna said. “What we are looking at doing is constructing a way to reach out to those people to say ‘How can we help you, how can we assist you, what kind of supports and advocacy can we provide to you?’ because there is obviously something going on here. Let’s see if we can solve that issue so that trigger is lessened or taken away.”
Brenna said often times, fights happen because people don’t know what the local resources are to help lessen the stressors that are causing the tension.
“Most of the time it is not about them not wanting it or willing to get the help.” Brenna said. “They don’t want to have this situation, they just don’t know how (to fix it), so it is about being that advocate and that voice to say here all you need is the information and once they have the information they can take it and go with it.
“It’s about making those connections so it does alleviate that big concern and maybe it’s still a volatile relationship, but you have taken out this huge concern that was weighing on them.”
This program has been in the works for about a year, as a way to try to address the concerns of increasing domestic incidents. Recently, the Advocates to End Domestic Violence received a grant to help fund a VALE advocate program with the two organizations. The program has been up and running for about two months and though there’s still a lot that needs to be done to get everything fully prepared, but Brenna said it will be successful because both agencies are so dedicated to it.
“I think it has so much potential to grow and become what it needs to be,” Brenna said. “I think there is just so much potential because both organizations are coming into it saying ‘Lets make this the best program it can be and truly coming together saying we are totally in this, full buy in on both sides. I think it will be really neat to see the impact it has.”
For Brenna, the position was a perfect fit to work with an organization and start this new program.
“I am passionate about social justice no matter what it is and I have never worked with domestic violence but I think that it is a need in our community and I thought it would be a good fit,” Brenna said. “When this opportunity came up I thought this is creating a program which was exciting and advocates is such a well established non-profit and I wanted that, I wanted to work with a nonprofit that was so healthy and well established that going in and creating a new program would be exciting and it wouldn’t be overwhelming.”
The other benefit of having Brenna within the Sheriff’s Office is she can work with victims involved in any sort of trauma, not just domestic situations, said Assistant Sheriff Ken Sandage.
“While her main duties are domestic violence prevention, Brenna is also here for all victims of crime,” Sandage said. “One of the biggest pluses of Brenna’s position is that she is available immediately to respond if a victim needs someone to talk with or needs those coping skills immediately, not just five or six days later with a referral that may take place.”
For instance, recently there was an armed robbery where Brenna was called in to assist with victim support.
“I didn’t expect robbery to be one of the first ones I saw because you just don’t think about it, but it is meeting the needs of Carson City whatever that ends up being,” Brenna said. “How powerful to have someone who can work with law enforcement and our team to be there and say this horrific, traumatic thing has happened to you, lets help you through it.”
Brenna hopes having her in the Sheriff’s Office will help victims feel more comfortable when having to talk to law enforcement about an incident.
“I think it makes it a little more approachable and helps soften how difficult it can be for victims to come into the police station,” Brenna said. “It isn’t going from one harsh, traumatic situation to another, there is an easing into it if you know someone is there. Often, you aren’t thinking all the way, you aren’t listening; you aren’t hearing everything that is being said because you are still in whatever happened. So to have another pair of ears there, to have someone else who can help you remember that the officer told you to do this or whatever to have someone there is easier.”