Fighting to reduce domestic violence

Gabrielle Gillette

Photo by Jimmy Boegle

Gabrielle Gillette, 30, is the domestic violence outreach coordinator for the Reno City Attorney’s Office, a job she’s held since October 2000. Three full-time domestic violence advocates, seven deputy city attorneys and Gillette make up the city’s domestic violence unit. Her position is currently funded by a federal Violence Against Women prevention grant, although the funding will probably eventually be worked into the city’s budget. Before taking the new job, Gillette worked as a legal secretary in the city attorney’s criminal division for 7 1/2 years. The lifelong area resident and graduate of Sparks High School lives in Sparks with her husband and child.

What do you do, exactly?

That’s a big question. Basically, what I do is schedule and prepare presentations on domestic violence, stalking and TPO [temporary protection order] violations so that an advocate can go out and present them to the community. That’s the gist of it, but I do lots of other things, too.

Who are these presentations given to?

We do them all over, including [at] Sexual Assault Services and the Crisis Call Center. We give a teen dating one at the middle schools and high schools. We do them at senior centers.

How about businesses?

No. It’s harder to do them in the public sector. That would deal with [the effects of domestic violence in the workplace], and businesses don’t like that. Our focus is on students and advocates, people like that.

How big of a problem is domestic violence here in Reno?

This is a bad thing, really. We have one of the highest mutual arrest rates [when both parties involved in a domestic violence situation are jailed] in the nation. We have a very serious problem. Our state is right about where the national average is, not much higher and not much lower. Obviously, our goal is to be below the national average.

What are you doing to accomplish that?

Well, that’s basically why I am here. Our motto is that education and awareness lead to prevention. This office primarily deals with arrests and prosecution. We’d like to see something done on the front end, and be more proactive than reactive. That’s a big part of the teen dating violence [presentations]. We’re trying to get into the schools. Statistics show that teens who have witnessed domestic violence [in their families] are more likely to commit domestic violence themselves. We’re trying to pass on the message to break the cycle.

But is that realistic? Isn’t domestic violence going to happen anyway?

We do make a difference. The two advocates who do presentations say that at the end of the presentations, at least two or three kids will be lined up to talk to them about their experiences. We won’t reach all of them, but we’ll always reach a few of them. It’s about teaching the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship.

If people want information, need help or know someone who needs help, who can they contact?

People can call our office at 334-2050, and we’ll send them in the right direction.