From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
September 4, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

New Law to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence Takes Effect.

AUSTIN, Tx. -- A new law by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Representative Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin) aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence in Texas took effect on Monday, September 1. Senate Bill 1253 ensures that victims of domestic violence are not charged fees for protective orders, strengthens requirements that offenders complete intervention and prevention programs, and provides additional protections for children.

"We must do all we can to protect victims of domestic violence in Texas," said Senator Ellis. "By removing fees for protective orders we will remove a barrier to justice for victims of family violence."

The two lawmakers said that statistics released by the Texas Department of Public Safety illustrate that domestic violence remains a significant problem in Texas. According to DPS, in 1995, 172,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to law enforcement in Texas -- a 5.7 percent increase over the previous year.

In addition, 28,900 adults and children were sheltered due to domestic violence, and the Family Violence Hotline received more than 153,000 calls. In the five years since the State of Texas began compiling these records, domestic violence incidents have increased by 28 percent.

"Domestic violence is a tragedy in Texas," said Ellis. "Families who are victims of domestic violence must not be victimized again by a criminal justice system that is insensitive and unresponsive. The Family Code must truly protect and strengthen families."

According to Ellis, Senate Bill 1253 clarifies that protective order applicants cannot be charged for any service relating to issuing a protective order; allows a court to assess attorney's fees against a protective order respondent; clarifies that any adult can file for a protective order on behalf of a child, including adults who are not members of the child's household; strengthens requirements that offenders participate in and complete intervention and prevention programs; and clarifies that joint managing conservatorship of children is not appropriate where there has been a finding of family violence.

Counseling and resource information is available to survivors of family violence by calling the National Domestic Violence toll-free Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD).