Members of law enforcement are required to receive training every year in aspects of investigating and dealing with domestic violence. That requirement was fulfilled by a recent training with Lorrie Fralick, supervisor of Reno Police Department’s victim services. However, WPD Lieutenant Pam Coats, who organized the training opportunity, had a larger goal in mind. She hoped to increase communication and cooperation among law enforcement, the justice system and victim’s advocate groups that handle domestic violence cases.

Coats knew trainer Lorrie Fralick from when she and Fralick both worked in the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. Fralick has been a domestic violence advocate for 25 years, including her 11 years with Reno PD and her time with the Nevada AG’s Office.

When Coats invited Fralick to do training in Winnemucca, she invited all members of local law enforcement but didn’t stop there. She also invited representatives form the District Attorney’s Office, the judges, and local domestic violence advocates for the training. The response from those invited was great. Winnemucca Police Department personnel, all of Humboldt County Sheriffs Office (HCSO) patrol deputies and Sergeant Dave Milton, Winnemucca Domestic Violence Services advocates and Humboldt AVA (Advocates for Victims of Abuse), Humboldt County Deputy DAs Richard Haas and Nicholas Ziccari, Justice of the Peace Letty Norcutt and District Judge Michael Montero all came to the training.

“Fralick’s training is victim centered,” Coats explained. “It helps everyone in the system understand more about why domestic violence cases are so difficult to investigate and why victims may not be able to respond to interrogation and assist in the investigation.”

“Fralick wanted to train us out of some of our traditional responses and assumptions, where we think the victim wants the suspect caught and prosecuted,” said Coats. “If we receive any false information we may think the whole report is false but that’s often not the case. Many victims are more afraid of the suspect than of the complications of lying.”

Coats said normally what responders learn, when called to a domestic violence case, is only the tip of the iceberg — the violence has been going on for much longer.

Fralick worked to teach the investigators to take their time, to help empower the victim and give some control of the situation back to the victim, to talk to them in a place and time they feel safe. In the training, Fralick said when she was being beaten by her husband, he threatened to kill her if she talked to investigators.

“It gave everyone an idea of why victims aren’t cooperative sometimes, helped them understand what victims are subjected to,” said Coats. “The compassion shown by first responders is extremely important. Survivors who experience a supportive and compassionate response have lower rates of post-traumatic stress complications.”

Coats shared a whole list of reasons why victims don’t come forward.

• fear of not being believed

• not realizing it is a crime

• shame or embarrassment

• fear of retaliation

• fear of family reaction

• self blame

• fear others will blame them

• effort to protect the offender

• a victim may not know who to report it to.

During the training, Fralick shared many stories of actual domestic violence situations — including her own. The combination of hearing the perspective of actual victims along with help for law enforcement and advocates to see domestic violence investigations from each other’s perspectives did make a difference, Coats said.

“I really believe the training breathed life into our community by bringing everyone together,” Coats said. “It’s so important that the common focus puts the victim first.”