Spotlight on Domestic Violence; Why Women Stay

Fresno has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the entire state.

Officers in our area respond to as many as 8,000 domestic violence calls every year.

Social workers say most victims don't even try to break the cycle of abuse until they've endured, on average, 7 separate incidents of abuse.

The propensity for domestic violence knows no boundaries - it happens in high profile relationships.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson made headlines recently after photos emerged, showing her husband's hand around her throat.

And several years ago, photos of singer, Rihanna, surfaced, revealing her injuries during her abusive relationship with Chris Brown.

They broke up, and reportedly got back together.

Now a public figure in Fresno is being accused of domestic violence.

Fresno's fire chief, Rob Brown, and his wife, are both defending his reputation, calling the June incident an argument that got heated.

But new details in court Tuesday reveal several incidents in the family's past that have been swept under the rug. {}According to a sheriff's report, Brown's wife told investigators of four to five incidents of domestic violence that she did not report while the Browns lived in another state, before moving to Fresno.

The fire chief is taking anger management and alcohol abuse classes. {}He and his wife are going to counseling, both as a family and individuals.{}

Officials at Fresno's Marjaree Mason Center, a shelter for abused women, say what Brown is going through is not unusual.

"You know there's that cycle of violence, where there's the honeymoon phase, after the explosion, comes the part where I'm sorry, I'm never going to do this. It's kind of like gambling at a slot machine at Chukchansi. You get that payoff and you think, oh I can win this," said Kristy Garavello, a social worker with the shelter.

And then, Garavello says, there's the "guilt trip" - when the victim wavers between feeling she's powerless but that she also has the power to stop the abuse.

"Because she blames herself. If you blame yourself then you can also say, there's a way out. Because if I'm to blame, then I can also fix the situation.{} But it's not a conscious thing, it's a very unconscious thing, it happens over time," said Garavello.

So how does someone break the cycle of abuse?

First, Garavello advises, reach out to someone.

Talk to someone about what's going on, whether it's a friend, family member, counselor because you can't do it on your own.

Second, step outside of yourself, and ask yourself.{} If it was your best friend, what would you want for her?

And third, don't believe everything your abuser is telling you, because they'll try to convince you to stay, and for them, it's about possession.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a violent relationship, there's a 24-hour hotline you can call:{} (559) 233-HELP.