The number of domestic violence deaths in Texas skyrocketed during COVID. Houston Non-Profit honors the victims.

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Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence, remembers the first few months of the stay-at-home arrangement as being quiet. Very calm. And it didn’t last.

TCFV reports how many men and women are killed by intimate partners each year. In 2020, the nonprofit agency documented an alarming trend: 228 men and women died as a result of domestic violence – an increase of 23 percent compared to 2019 and the highest number of homicides in the relationship in the last ten years.

Maisha Colter, CEO of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, says there was a surge in phone calls requesting support services after the home stay order waned.

Why did the victims wait so long to ask for help?

“A lot of people thought we weren’t available,” she sighs. The world was closed, so Houstonians assumed AVDA was closed too. “A large part of our referral process is law enforcement agencies and schools, child protection services and counselors. It’s all gone. “

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, AVDA is working with other Houston-based organizations and agencies on four community-based events – two major fundraisers and two interfaith events – to ensure Texans in the area know that services are available to them 365 days a year Year are available.

The money raised will help provide free counseling and legal representation to victims of domestic violence in Austin, Grimes, Harris, Fort Bend, Waller and Washington. AVDA’s attack and intervention program aims to prevent abuse by educating vulnerable greater Houston residents about best practices for healthy relationships.

AVDA previously held an annual Home Safe Home Gala to help boost its operating budget; This year the organization decided to slightly shift the focus of the event.

“When AVDA contacted us and asked if it was possible to name the event after our report, they were instantly ‘yes’,” recalls Terry.

Earlier this month, Co-Chairs Katherine and Dr. Brian Parsley and Stephanie von Stein Schusterman and Dr. Mark Schusterman aims to raise $ 185,000 in honor of the 185 Texans killed by life partners in 2019 The Potente’s Honoring Texas Victims: Advocating to End Domestic Abuse far surpassed the original figure for a grand total of 325,000 U.S. dollar.

During the program, organizers streamed a poignant video of Brenda (last name withheld during an ongoing legal battle), whose daughter was killed in a domestic dispute last year.

Unfortunately, Brenda’s story, tragic as it may be, is not an isolated incident. Terry anticipated the 2020 death toll would be higher than normal based on the anecdotal information TCFV received during the pandemic.

“When we think of factors, two things influenced this surge: the impact of COVID-19 and a higher presence of firearms,” ​​says Terry. “We equate COVID with Hurricane Harvey in our analysis so we know that disasters, be they natural disasters or pandemics, are stressors.

“Many people feared for their economic stability, and these stressors alone do not cause domestic violence, but they accelerate it in unhealthy relationships,” she continues. “COVID isolated people so victims have to choose whether to stay at home and endure abuse or go into a community setting.”

Interactions with church members, family, friends, and teachers who might otherwise act as allies or intervene disappeared almost entirely with social distancing.

“The violence they experienced was far more severe than what we normally see,” says Colter. “Something has actually changed, we have the subject of firearms and access to them. That was a big factor in the increase – easy access. “

In 2019, AVDA helped issue a total of five lifetime protection orders, the highest level available.

In order to receive one, in addition to threats of assault and violence, victims must also file a report of aggravated assault and the use of guns, explains Colter. Between March and July 2020, five AVDA customers were issued lifelong protection orders.

Terry supports Colter’s hypothesis. Data from the latest TCFV report suggests that the combination of unhealthy relationships and the presence of firearms during the stay-at-home mandates of the pandemic contributed to the rise in domestic deaths across the country. “Our report did not focus on the increase in firearms purchased, but every evidence we found supports it,” she says.

TCFV’s 2020 report also shows that while intimate partner violence does not discriminate based on age – the youngest victim was 14 years old, the oldest 90 years old – colored communities were at the center of the results.

“There’s a fine line between pandemic safety and cultural and racial justice,” Terry explains.

To reach prospects in every corner of the city, the remaining AVDA domestic violence awareness program of the month included “Party in the Park” on Saturday at Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire; a free, virtual seminar, “Faith and Family Violence: Identifying and Addressing Abuse” on Tuesday in partnership with Daya, the Harris Country Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and Interfaith Advisory Board; and an “An Evening of Remembrance, Care and Hope” virtual vigil on October 26th to honor domestic violence victims, survivors and their families.

Further information can be found at avda-tx.org.

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