louis martin
cns news & features

Fort Bragg, California--

In the sheriff's report she is simply called "Female Adult." But here let us call her Alejandra.

In the police report, he is given a name: Jose Cruz. Let us stick with reality.

On Monday, Jose Cruz was arrested and booked into Mendocino County Jail. Bail was set at $25,000.

The story is a common one. But here are a few of the details, anyway.

The two live in the crowded trailer park on North Harbor drive at Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg. The harbor is the biggest commercial fishing harbor on the North Coast south of Humbolt Bay. There are a couple of tourist restaurants--the harbor is "picturesque"--but the main employment at Noyo Harbor are the fish processing plants.

The processing plants provide employment to the residents of the crowded trailer park who are almost exclusively Hispanic.

From time to time, things get tense at the trailer park.

On last Friday night, things got very tense for Alejandra and Jose. A "domestic argument" began.

Now there is nothing wrong with an argument. According to psychologists it is even beneficial for couples to argue from time to time. Nor is it illegal--if it does not get too loud or turn physical.

Unfortunately, for Alejandra and Jose their argument turned physical and ugly.

According to Alejandra, Jose slapped her, bit her in the face, and raped her. These incidents allegedly occurred during the course of an argument that went on from Friday evening until the early hours of Saturday morning.

She did not seek medical aid until Sunday when she went to Mendocino Coast Hospital in Fort Bragg. The incident was then reported to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, and deputies were dispatched to take a report. The report indicates evidence of physical assault.

On Monday, Jose turned himself in at the Sheriff's substation in Fort Bragg. During the course of an interview, he admitted slapping and biting Alejandra. He was arrested for Spousal Abuse, Mayhem, and Forcible Rape. He was transported to the county jail in Ukiah.

Not a pretty picture, but not an uncommon one. In the city of Fort Bragg itself--the harbor lies just on the outskirts of town--domestic violence is the biggest problem there, according to police chief Tom Bickel.

Said Sallie Weson, a staff counselor at Project Sanctuary in Fort Bragg, "Often times people think, because we are in a rural area, we don't have that much of a problem; but we actually do." She said the number of sexual assaults on the coast is about the same as the national average.

And according to Weson, very few cases of sexual assault get reported. The FBI estimates that about 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 are reported. And among minorities, the numbers are probably even lower.

Said Weson, "I am a white woman. It's easier for me to report to white police officers than it is for a woman of color." And where there is a language barrier, the difficulty and awkwardness of the situation is even greater.

Project Sanctuary in Fort Bragg offers counselling and support to victims of sexual assault--both female and male. About 15% of those seeking help are male. In addition to personal counseling, they have a 24-hour crisis line. Bilingual counselors are available.



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