San Diego officials and community leaders tackle rising domestic violence in Fil-Am homes –

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WITHIN the Filipino community, it is considered taboo to talk about domestic violence because of a culture that has taught people to keep family issues inside their homes.

Domestic violence occurs when a person uses fear and bullying to control another person. It is a form of abuse that can occur between husband and wife, partners or even parent and child.

It’s not the easiest topic to discuss, requiring a certain level of vulnerability to be able to talk about your experience and ask someone for help. As a result, the problem is swept under the rug.

In San Diego, the homicide rate is increasing due to domestic violence in Filipino households.

To address this growing crisis, the Filipino Resource Center hosted an online “Domestic Violence Forum” on Monday November 1st. A panel of guest speakers also discussed the various programs and resources available for people with domestic violence in San Diego.

“[Domestic violence] is not only traumatic for the actual victim who is involved, but it has a ripple effect that extends to this family, to the children left behind in this family, and also a ripple effect to the community as a whole San Diego District Attorney Summer Stéphane said.

In 2020, a total of 17,679 incidents of domestic violence were reported to law enforcement, according to Stephan.

However, she noted that domestic violence is one of the “least reported crimes” in the county.

“So when we see 17,679 reports … it’s a sub-report because we know so many victims. [do] don’t report domestic violence out of shame, because they feel like they want to hang on to their family, because relationships and domestic violence start with love, ”Stephan said.

“[It’s] super important that we break this cycle because the next generation witnessing violence in their homes is starting to normalize that violence. And we know that children who grow up in homes who are victims of domestic violence are more likely to become victims themselves because they accept or see it as the only way to have a relationship, or to become abusers because that’s all they’ve been through, ”she added. “That’s why breaking this cycle through education, through prevention is really, really important.”


Domestic violence usually involves domination and control of the abuser.

According to Stephan, it can start with subtle things like checking the victim’s phone, controlling how long the victim has to talk on the phone, or showing discomfort with friendships or strong relationships the victim has with their family or family.

“This is what we call an attempt to isolate the victim,” she said.

Domestic violence can manifest itself in many ways: physical violence, verbal violence, emotional violence, financial violence or sexual violence.

Stephan also noted that when a “trigger event” occurs, in which the victim attempts to break the relationship through divorce, domestic violence can escalate and even lead to homicide.

“What this means is that you need resources… make sure there is a safety plan and that the victims know they are not alone and can escape with the help from expert resources, ”she added.

One such resource is the District Attorney’s Office of the Victims Advocate, which has a victim assistance program comprised of 20 lawyers.

“We help victims every day, whether or not there is a criminal case open,” said Taraneh Sarebanha, a victim advocate. “That’s one thing we really want to highlight here, you don’t have to have a criminal case that has been issued to get this assistance.”

“We have phone calls, we have people contacting us every day asking for help, information and advice. In fact, you can call anonymously. We want you to get this information so that you can take the action that is right for your family, for yourself, ”she added.

Anyone is encouraged to call the office’s main line at (619) 531-4041, where callers will be assigned a victim advocate who can provide information so they can understand the consequences and make an informed decision.

The Office of the Victims Lawyer also assists in claiming compensation from victims of crime when a criminal case is brought up.

“So, the Crime Victims Compensation Board for the State of California, their goal is to compensate for the effects of crime on the life of a victim and on the life of his or her family,” said Keri Duncan, a another victim advocate.

“This can include funds for emergency relocation, mental health therapy, home security, medical care, etc.” We provide appropriate referrals and resources to victims, and we meet victims where they are and try to tailor our services to their specific needs and problems, ”she added.

Duncan stressed that their office is there to help victims and their immediate circle “to create a sense of support and empowerment while maintaining safety.”

“We are here to help because we don’t want anyone to feel helpless and alone in their fight against the abuser. We want to help them regain their self-esteem, their security and their well-being, ”she added.

Law enforcement

For his part, Lt. Al Ambito of the San Diego Police Department reassured that resources are also available within the police department.

Filipino victims of domestic violence will not have to struggle with the language barrier since there are people in the department who can speak their language and help them.

“This makes it easier for us to take the report. And not just the verbal part, not just the communication, but also the understanding of the culture, ”he said.

“We as Filipinos are very private. So I think [domestic violence is] not reported because we don’t want others to know that we have issues within our family. You know, we want to take care of it ourselves, ”he added.

Ambito stressed that victims can call, even if only to report verbal abuse. Someone will always take a report, he assured, as it is part of the strict protocol of the San Diego Police Department.

“Our response to domestic violence is very strict. California has one of the toughest, if not the toughest, domestic violence laws, ”he said.

“Again, that’s just one of the things we want to encourage, especially here in the police department: to call us. Whether we take a report or not, at least as a police service we will have your address, your names, and that will be documented in one way or another, ”he added.


Domestic violence does not distinguish between race, sex or age.

“One of the things we see is that it crosses the generations,” said Deputy District Attorney Justine Santiago.

“You have teen violence, you have domestic violence that starts when you’re in high school when teens start dating, up to situations where people have been married for over 20 years, and either they’ve been through it. domestic violence which all the time, or something new that has developed, does not discriminate between people, ”she added.

According to Santiago, when it comes to prosecuting cases of domestic violence, it’s “not just cut and dry”.

“We have victims who are initially reluctant to report these cases to begin with, whether it’s because they’re embarrassed, because they want to hang on to this notion of a relationship they thought they were in, who ‘they are in denial or if they are even afraid of being able to report it,’ she said.

“Sometimes this is never reported to law enforcement. But one of the difficulties we also face is that even when a victim is courageous enough when they have the courage to call law enforcement, it does not automatically mean that we are able to go. move forward and bring an action to file a complaint, ”she added.

One of the burdens of a prosecutor, Santiago said, is having an ethical obligation not to issue something if he cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

“And as you all know, these crimes happen behind closed doors,” she said, referring to cases of domestic violence.

“Sometimes it’s verbal abuse. Sometimes it’s emotional abuse. Sometimes there are no scars that we can use as evidence to show that something has happened. So our hands are tied most of the time, ”she added.

An important feeling that Santiago made a point of emphasizing is that victims of domestic violence are not alone.

“Your voices are heard, we are here to support you. And we want the community to know that they also need to support and rally with everyone, because this is an issue that is gaining a lot of support from media and social networks, ”she said.

Give a hand

Knowing what resources are available to victims is essential to help them escape and break away from domestic violence.

Maricris Talabanza Drouaillet lamented his lack of knowledge of the resources available to help his sister, May “Maya” Thousand, missing since early January of this year.

Maya’s husband Larry Millete was arrested last month on suspicion of her murder.

“I didn’t know at all. If I had known, I could have intervened, ”said Drouaillet.

“When she told me that she had consulted a divorce lawyer, I just said to her, ‘be careful.’ That’s all I told her. And then she said, she knows, she understood, “she added.

Drouaillet urged everyone to reach out to anyone suspected of being a victim of domestic violence and assure them that they are not alone.

“Don’t let your family member be like my sister. Don’t let your friend feel like my sister. Know that there are resources, that there is help, and let them know that they are not alone, that you are with them, ”she said.

Maya’s disappearance tore the whole family apart, according to Drouaillet.

“We are a family of 30, we always come together on every occasion and every occasion… to create memories. Just being together makes us really happy. But since Maya’s absence, nothing has been the same. We will never be complete again, ”she said.

Drouaillet found that domestic violence affects everyone, including family members of the victim.

“[Maya’s] daughters and her son, [I don’t] even know what their future will be. Their mom is gone. And their father is in prison. This is the effect of domestic violence, ”she said.

“I hope my sister’s story can be a lesson for everyone. If you have a friend or family member who is going through this – not just physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse – let them know there are resources and help them ” , she added.

Ritchel mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is an editor and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected]

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