MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Domestic abuse makes up over half of Memphis’ violent crime.
But, on average, it takes longer for police to respond to domestic violence calls than other crimes.
Sabra Haynes represents a quarter of Memphis women; She’s been a victim of domestic violence.
“When I met him, he wasn’t this way. It was something that progressed,” said Haynes.
She says one day her boyfriend beat her so bad, she posted photos of her bruised face on social media to send a message to other victims.
“One thing could lead to another and lead to another, they need to tell someone.”
Last year, there were over 50,000 911 calls for domestic violence in Memphis.
Advocates say it takes victims an average of seven to nine times of being abused before leaving their partner.
“What officers have told me is a lot of times it can be frustrating when you’re on the job and you’re getting called to the same address over and over again, but I just try to reiterate with them that you may be that person’s only lifeline,” said advocate Jordan Howard.
That lifeline begins with 911.
In 2017, officers took nine and a half minutes on average to get to an active domestic violence call.
That’s about five minutes longer than shots fired calls, three minutes longer than robberies and two minutes longer than fights.*
Stats show police respond to domestic violence calls quicker than the average burglary call, but victims like Haynes still feel it’s not fast enough.
“I kept calling and said, ‘Are they on their way? Are they coming?’” said Haynes.
Major J.D. Smith says abusers are often no longer there when a domestic violence victim calls 911, which takes down the urgency in the call.
“We’re not leisurely strolling there, we’re not. We’re not in a major hurry to get there because there’s not imminent death or threatening bodily violence at that time,” said Major Smith, commander of the Domestic Violence Unit.
But police sources tell WREG some officers purposely wait for the suspect to leave, making it an easier and less dangerous call for them.
“To say someone’s waiting for a bad guy to leave, that’ll never happen,” said Major Smith.
He said it’s against their training.
“That might be that officer’s opinion for whatever reason, but that’s not the total outlook or response you’ll get from a uniformed officer.”
Major Smith says more victims are reporting domestic violence than in years past.
However, it can be challenging when victims change their minds about charges or get back together with the abuser.
“You go through this really bad situation of violence, but it cycles right back into this honeymoon phase,” said Howard.
She says victims often fall for the apologies or can be threatened to not speak or move forward with charges.
“We have to remember victims really are scared. It’s messy because they do care about this person,” said Howard.
Memphis police are working on a new program to help officers in the field understand how much danger individual victims are in based on a questionnaire.
“It’s allowing our victims an opportunity to get out of the situation. It’s a start,” said Major Smith.
It’s something Haynes is working to get used to.
“I’m okay,” she said. “I still have moments where I have flashbacks and I get angry. I try not to take it out on anyone. It’s a process. I’ve been seeing a therapist and she’s been helping me with coping skills.”
The man charged with abusing her was arrested for assaulting a new girlfriend a few months later.
Haynes just hopes she can encourage others to walk away.
“They don’t have to be in that situation. You deserve to be happy. Your home should be your home. You should feel comfortable at home.”
If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you’re encouraged to call the Family Safety Center at 901-222-4400.
*MPD says officers determine on the scene whether a call is an assault or aggravated assault.