Local News

Some domestic violence survivors call Durham sheriff's support 'ironic'

Posted October 25, 2017 6:51 p.m. EDT

— The Durham County Sheriff's Office donned purple on Wednesday to take a photo to support survivors of domestic violence, but some of the survivors called the gesture "ironic."

When some residents heard of the photo op, they planned a rally outside of the Durham County jail. They said they feel like the sheriff's office is working against them, pointing specifically to the issue of immigration.

"We've actually heard of multiple cases of women specifically who have called the Durham County Sheriff's Office, who have called police officers, who have called for help, and what ends up happening is they get arrested with some bogus charge," said Daniela Hernandez Blanco, a survivor of domestic violence and a member of Alerta Migratoria, a Durham nonprofit that assists undocumented residents. "They end up getting detained in jail, and they get an ICE detainer placed."

The sheriff's office says it does not have a partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but some disagree.

"It really makes me mad, and it really reinforces the fact that we are the ones who keep us safe," said Blanco. "We have to join together in the community to make sure that this doesn't keep happening."

The sheriff's office said in a statement that authorities plan to hire additional deputies to assist survivors in the protection order process. Right now, there are only two deputies assigned to help with that process.

"We know a protection order isn't a cure-all for domestic violence, but it can empower survivors. We want them to know they have options," Sheriff Mike Andrews said.

A spokesperson with the Durham Police Department said its domestic violence unit was started 20 years ago.

"Investigators assigned to this unit receive specialized training and investigate domestic violence cases, provide training to DPD officers, promote a community-wide response to the issue of domestic violence and collaborate with other agencies to effectively reduce the instances of domestic violence in our community. The Domestic Violence Unit also seeks to assist the victims of domestic violence and the children living in their households," the statement said.

Ashley Canady, president of the McDougald Terrace Resident Council, said she has heard from many people who have been victimized by the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

"It's sad because people don't realize what a victim is," she said. "If you report this to the police, it's going to get back to your accuser. It's like a never-ending cycle."