REEDLEY – Community leaders from local churches and the police department plan to gather in downtown Reedley for a prayer vigil in solidarity against domestic violence, which is pervasive across Fresno County.
Hosted by the Reedley Police Department, the vigil will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at 1019 G Street in front of the Marjaree Mason Center’s Reedley branch. In a statement to the Mid Valley Times, Reedley Chief of Police Joe Garza said the vigil will provide an opportunity for community members to channel collective energy and compassion into positive action.
“The domestic violence prayer vigil is a chance for the community to come together, acknowledge the pain caused by domestic violence and collectively commit to creating a safer, more supportive environment for all its members,” Garza said.
The vigil will have 20 minutes of interfaith prayer from a variety of local clergy leaders. According to a press release from the police department, leaders will share insights and experiences related to domestic violence prevention and support.
Garza said clergy leaders involved include: Miriam Cardenas, Life House Church; Michelle Magee, First United Methodist Church; Matter Harder and Mike Schellenberg, Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church; Ron Robertson, Full Gospel Tabernacle; Kaz Nakata, Reedley Buddhist Church; Virgil Miller, Christ Lutheran Church; and Bishop Joseph Brennan, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.
Alongside comments from clergy leaders, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in prayer “as a symbol of unity and support for survivors,” the press release said. Attendees are encouraged to wear purple, the color that represents domestic violence awareness, to further show their solidarity.
“We want survivors to know they are not alone and that there is a community that cares about their well-being,” Garza said.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
The Reedley Police Department hopes that attendees can also gain awareness, education, healing, empowerment and inspiration for change after the vigil, Garza said. He said anyone in the community can take further action against domestic violence, whether by volunteering with local organizationing, supporting policy changes or being mindful of the signs of abuse within their own circles.
“We hope that the prayer vigil raises awareness about the prevalence and devastating impact of domestic violence,” Garza said. “It’s a chance for community members to gain a deeper understanding of the issue and the suffering experienced by survivors.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the prayer vigil organized by the Reedley Police Department is just one of many initiatives meant to educate the public on the signs of domestic violence and resources for survivors.
Through the Marjaree Mason Center (MMC), a Fresno-based organization that provides support services to domestic violence survivors, community members can join in on daily activities to observe the month, like sharing information about MMC resources or looking into their workplace’s domestic violence policies.
Domestic violence can take on many forms, extending beyond physical abuse, and is a pattern of coercive behaviors that influences another person in an intimate partner relationship, according to the MMC. It is a problem that persists in all places and is especially prevalent in Fresno County.
Domestic violence in Fresno County
Of the 10 most populous counties in the state, Fresno County has one of the highest per capita rates of domestic violence calls to local law enforcement agencies, according to data from the MMC. In the first six months of 2023, local law enforcement agencies recorded 4,291 reports of domestic violence in the area.
Through a domestic violence data dashboard launched by the MMC earlier this year, law enforcement agencies are able to better track domestic violence trends and target messaging and preventative work; however, stopping domestic violence is still a difficult task, and the majority of cases go unreported.
In a previous interview with the Mid Valley Times, MMC representatives said Garza was instrumental in getting the data dashboard off the ground and working with local agencies throughout the county to prepare data for the MMC’s tool.
Garza said that the development of dashboards like the MMC one allows law enforcement agencies to analyze trends, patterns and the effectiveness of their own efforts to address domestic violence.
“Data-driven decision-making helps us allocate resources more efficiently and tailor our response to the specific needs of our community,” Garza said.
The Reedley Police Department’s motivation behind their work against domestic violence stems from a desire to support survivors, a commitment to public safety and “a belief that everyone deserves to live free from violence and fear in their own homes,” Garza said.
Reedley police also place a strong focus on addressing domestic violence to foster community safety and trust, prevent recurrence and because they have a legal obligation to respond to domestic violence incidents and uphold the law.
“Our primary duty is to ensure the safety and well-being of all community members,” Garza said. “Domestic violence poses a significant threat to the safety of individuals and families, and addressing it is essential for creating a secure environment.”
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office has multiple resources available for survivors of domestic violence, including information on the Victim Compensation Program, the Victim Bill of Rights and counseling services.
The MMC offers counseling, crisis support, safe houses and legal advocacy services on top of education and training. To contact the MMC, email email@example.com or call the 24-hour crisis line at 559-233-4357.