Importance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
One of the most troubling concerns facing us today is domestic violence. Every year, an estimated four million women in the United States are abused by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, however, we should not limit our efforts to curb this epidemic just one month out of the year.
Domestic violence is a serious crime, and we, the Texas Legislature, should consider it a top priority.
In 2004, in Texas 182,087 family violence incidents were reported, and 115 women were killed by their male partners. It is reported that 924,042 Texas women were battered in 2004. Attacks by husbands on wives result in more injuries requiring medical attention than rape, auto accidents and muggings combined. On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day.
A poll by the Texas Council on Family Violence shows that 74 percent of all Texans have either themselves, a family member or a friend experienced some form of domestic violence and for Hispanic Texans, this number is 77 percent. Abusive behavior can be found among all income, ethnic, age and religious groups.
Last regular legislative session we introduced bills aimed at curbing this social ill. Senate Bill 1186, that I voted for, allows a woman to terminate her residential lease without penalty if she is forced to leave home to escape bodily harm.
I authored Senate Bill 309, a bill that would have allowed the Attorney General's Office to establish a confidential post office box address for any victim of family violence, sexual assault, or stalking, once the person had met the program's eligibility requirements. However, after passing in the Senate and the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the legislation was stalled in the House Calendars Committee and didn't pass. Such a law is still needed.
During the 79th regular session, we were able to maintain funding for domestic violence services by appropriating $46 million for the biennium. This was an increase of $2 million over the last biennium, which will serve to expand access to domestic violence services statewide.
Ms. Lilly Champion, executive director of Friendship of Women (FOW), a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center serving southern Cameron County said, "During the month of October, FOW recognizes those who work to end domestic violence, honor the lives that have been lost and celebrate the lives of the individuals who are survivors and let the community know of the services available to them."
These victims also include children. Over half the children of battered mothers are likely to be physically abused themselves. That abuse can affect their health, prevent them from attending school and, adversely, affect their self-image. All of these factors can impede a child's development and lead to much more serious problems. Children from abusive homes are more likely to become alcoholics, drug abusers and juvenile delinquents. A majority of violent criminals were raised in abusive homes. Boys whose mothers are abused are more likely to abuse their girlfriends and wives as adults. Girls who witness abuse may be led to believe that abuse is socially acceptable.
"Last year, Mujeres Unidas provided shelter and supportive services to over 2,000 families in Hidalgo and Starr counties," explained Ms. Estella de Anda, executive director. "During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we have extensive outreach and community awareness to reach victims in the community."
Ms. Brenda Heredia, executive director of the Family Crisis Center serving northern Cameron County, is proud of a program they sponsor that has received acclaim from the Texas Attorney General. "We hold an annual conference (Oct. 13-14 this year) that targets probation and parole officers, police, counselors, social workers and legal professionals to better educate them about abused children and families."
Domestic violence is a community wide problem. Confidential help is available for victims of domestic violence through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Callers can be connected to local domestic violence services in their community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When a woman's well-being or life is threatened, it affects everyone. So I strongly encourage the people of my district to become involved and attend events that promote an end to domestic violence.
NOTE: LOCAL EVENTS Friendship of Women will be holding its Sixth Annual Walk for Safe Families on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Brownsville Events Center, and on Tuesday, Oct. 25, its Candlelight Vigil at the Brownsville Events Center from 6 to 8 p.m. For additional information call 956-544-7412. The Family Crisis Center will hold its Candlelight Vigil at Texas State Technical College Learning Resource Center from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information call 866-423-9304. Mujeres Unidas will hold its Candlelight Vigil on Oct. 13 at the Family Justice Center in McAllen from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information call 866-580-4879.