The Aftermath: Domestic Violence In Rural Northern California

Domestic violence occurs in every region, in every part of society. But economically-depressed rural areas often have a greater incidence of abuse and fewer resources to address it.

For example, in Del Norte County -- nestled in California's northwestern corner -- 911 calls about domestic violence come in at a rate eight times the state average.

Emily Cureton began reporting on this while working as a reporter at the Del Norte Triplicate in Crescent City. Now, for JPR, she explores the tragic stories and examines the social implications of a culture where domestic violence becomes routine.

Triplicate reporter David Grieder contributed to these reports, which were supported by a California Health Journalism Fellowship through USC's Annenberg School of Journalism.

The Aftermath: "I Was Afraid It Would Get Worse"

Mar 15, 2016
Bryant Anderson/Del Norte Triplicate

Tracking domestic violence is difficult; more so in rural areas.

But in California’s Del Norte County, these calls come into law enforcement agencies at a rate two-and-a-half times that of anywhere else in the state.

Williams family

Domestic violence breeds shame and fear, which often keeps the abused from seeking help.

Shame and fear also feed family and social dysfunction, and violence can become a normal part of life, a curse that gets passed down from generation to generation.

This is the story of one family’s struggle to escape that toxic legacy.

Bryant Anderson/Del Norte Triplicate

Native communities are disproportionately affected by high rates of domestic violence, while state-led interventions in these communities are often costly and ineffective.

In rural California, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services says the solutions require a cultural shift, that entire communities must take responsibility for ending violence against women.

Now, new programs on the ancestral lands of the Yurok Tribe are trying to do that.

Bryant Anderson/Del Norte Triplicate

One of California's smallest counties is beset with one of the state's biggest problems: domestic violence. 

The Del Norte County Sheriff's office received domestic violence calls in the dozens until six years ago. 

That's when the number mushroomed into the hundreds, and now tops 1,000 per year, more per capita than in any other county in all of California.  The reasons and remedies are elusive. 

Emily Cureton, now the Exchange producer, spent a year delving into the domestic violence situation in Del Norte County. 

Lessons From The Field

Mar 14, 2016

It’s around 10pm when I call Vicky, a crisis worker for victims of domestic violence in Del Norte County, California. I’m panicking, 150 miles away in Ashland. I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt tonight. Vicky listens calmly. She agrees to drive by an address near her neighborhood. It’s an address that shows up over and over in the Del Norte County 9-1-1 call logs. I came across it researching how law enforcement responds to reports of domestic violence in a county with the highest rate of domestic violence reports in California.

Domestic violence occurs in every region, in every part of society.

But economically-depressed rural areas often have a greater incidence of abuse and fewer resources to stop it.

For example, in Del Norte County -- nestled far behind the Redwood Curtain in California’s northwestern corner -- 911 calls about domestic violence come in at a rate eight times the state average.

More of these calls reached local law enforcement in 2015 than ever before.