Story and Reporting by Alissa Bremner
Rankings Which Need to Change
In recent years, Nevada has ranked first nationally in the rate of women murdered by a male intimate partner, according to organizations which track these grim statistics. Activists say domestic violence and sexual assault are prevalent in Nevada, but that not much is being done to stop it.
Safe Embrace and Its Waiting List
Safe Embrace, located in Sparks, Nevada, is a non-profit organization that offers advocacy, emergency shelter, a 24-hour crisis hotline, and so much more to people in the Reno-Sparks area. The problem, activists say, is that so many people need help, and they don’t have enough room to house all of these women and their children.
Executive Director John Etchemendy said they currently have around three dozen women and children on their waiting list right now.
“Our shelter has been 100 percent occupied for the last two and a half years,” Etchemendy said.
Life or Death Situations
Last year, while on Safe Embrace’s waiting list for their emergency shelter, staff say a woman was murdered by her significant other. The women on this waiting list are in dire need of help.
The Safe Embrace shelter, in a confidential location, currently has 15 beds.
Etchemendy made it clear that they are currently raising money to build a new wing on the property that will hold 16 additional beds.
The longest families can stay is 90 days, but they can apply for transitional housing for when those 90 days are up, typically government assisted temporary housing for those in dire need.
Housing Help and Daily Calls
Amparo Iglesias, a staff member at Safe Embrace who helps with housing opportunities, said that all of the women are eligible for transitional housing. All they need it to just fill out an application that gives information on the situation they are in.
“We table it to see who is in the most need for transitional stability,” Iglesias said.
Along with transitional housing, Safe Embrace has a 24-hour crisis hotline. They receive seven to nine calls a day from women who are in crisis. If they get a call about a sexual assault that just occurred, someone from Safe Embrace can go with the client to the hospital to give support while they get tests done.
Long Distance Emergency Evacuations and Education
Staff also offer emergency evacuation help. So if the client is only in the Reno-Sparks area for school or a short period of time, Safe Embrace can help get them back to wherever home may be.
Along with that, Safe Embrace sends advocates out to local youth groups to educate the young on important matters such as consent. Etchemendy said they want to, “initiate thought,” on issues like pressuring for consent, and locker room talk.
Etchemendy raised questions like, “if the girl wants to say no, but is pressured into saying yes, does that count as consent if she doesn’t actually want to have sex?” And, “if a boy pressures a girl into saying yes, should he take that as consent when she originally said no?” These are the types of questions Safe Embrace is asking teens, and trying to educate them on what pressure can do when it comes to consent. Etchemendy says he thinks the real problem behind domestic violence and sexual assault is our culture.
“The problem is a culture where we continually blame the victim,” Etchemendy said.
Story and Reporting by Alissa Bremner for Our Town Reno