Domestic violence and substance abuse in Fresno County

Local News

Every year, more than 10 million men and women in the United States are subject to domestic violence. The rate of calls reporting domestic violence in Fresno County is 63% higher than the state average. 

Michelle Walker moved in with her partner in 1991. She was 21, but the romance she knew took a turn. 

“The day that we moved in, I found myself sliding down a wall that evening.”

Walker says she grew up with her mother being a victim of domestic violence and vowed to herself she would never be.

“Until you’re in it you just don’t realize how much fear and how much that can control you.”

She says she endured physical abuse for five years and was once hospitalized with cracked ribs. Walker had children with her abuser and eventually became addicted to pain killers and alcohol. 

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp says the two usually go hand in hand.

“I would say close to 70 to 75% of the cases that we see of domestic violence involve some form of substance abuse.”

According to Smittcamp, the average woman in the United States is physically abused around seven times before calling law enforcement. 

“In 2018 we had a total of 4,070 cases come through our office. The year before that it was about 500 more, so it ranges between 4,000 to 5,000 cases.”

Walker says she finally got the courage to seek help at the Marjaree Mason Center. Her abuser sought out help too, and he asked her to move back home. 

“We got married three months later and the day that we got married the abuse started happening again.”

Walker found the strength to leave her abuser again after almost five years. She is now 12 years clean and sober and in a healthy marriage of 8 years to another man she calls her best friend.

Walker hopes her past will encourage other women like her.

“Women need to know that you can survive, that there is help, that there is a different life.”

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