One of the most troubling concerns facing our community is domestic violence. In Texas, 1 in 3 adult women has been a victim of domestic violence. Over the past year and a half, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times has done an excellent job of putting domestic violence at the forefront by covering its effects and exploring solutions to reduce the deadly trend. These stories and statistics should motivate all of us to work to better protect victims.
Since the 1980s, the prevention of domestic violence in Texas has been a top priority and much of my legislation supports programs that aim to overcome domestic violence. When I was chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, we held public hearings that discussed the serious problem of women serving prison time for defending themselves against a violent partner. As a result, several members carried legislation to change the laws to help protect victims of family violence.
In 2009, committee Chairman Abel Herrero and I authored Mary’s Law, which allows for GPS monitoring of domestic violence offenders. And most recently, in 2015, I sponsored House Bill 2645, which allows juries to hear more information about family violence and increases accountability for offenders monitored by GPS as part of a protective order. This bill now allows law enforcement to arrest the violator in real time for a violation of a protective order, thereby increasing victim safety and offender accountability.
Funding to help prevent family violence is critical. As vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, I secured a $1 million increase in funding for the Battery Intervention Prevention Program, in which offenders are held accountable for past abusive behavior and taught the fundamentals of leading healthy, nonviolent relationships. The increase in funds allows services to expand and adds innovative approaches to current practice. Additionally, the 2016-2017 budget included $53.9 million for core services provided by family violence programs and $3 million to address unmet needs such as housing and childcare. We will continue to work with advocates to address funding shortfalls for organizations that provide assistance to victims and offenders.
While the Texas Legislature has strengthened laws against abusers to give district attorneys and our communities more tools to protect family violence victims and provide funds for family violence programs, much work remains to be done. In order to end the cycle of violence, our community needs to focus on prevention by raising public awareness while also effectively implementing and enforcing laws.
Implementation is key to protecting victims. It was alarming to learn that the family violence center in our community was closed on weekends. However, through the Coastal Bend Community Coordinated Response Coalition forums, victims and advocates called for change. As a result, Corpus Christi Police Chief Mike Markle implemented changes so that family violence detectives are rotated for weekends and after-hours duty. This is a step in the right direction so that victims of abuse do not live in fear simply because it is a weekend.
One solution to addressing domestic violence is to adopt components from the city of El Paso’s 24-Hour Contact Domestic Violence Initiative. The program takes a proactive and aggressive approach by moving domestic violence cases through the criminal justice system more effectively and focuses on victim outreach. Victim advocates seek face-to-face contact with victims of a domestic violence crimes for which an offender has been arrested within the past 24 hours. We need to collaborate among relevant agencies and discuss how we can improve and adopt El Paso’s model.
It will take more than one person, one agency, or one government entity to curb domestic violence. It will take work from legislators, law enforcement, the probation department, our local family violence shelter, public officials, parents, students and residents throughout our community to ensure we protect victims and hold their abusers accountable. Together, and only together, can we make our community a safer place.
The crime victims program continues to help so many in need here in our very own El Paso. As a practicing Chiropractor, I have seen more than my share of domestic dispute violence drama and the physical toll on individuals and families. We touch these individuals and work on their bodies after the ordeals they undergo at the physical and emotional levels. It is this proximity to our patients that allows us to see firsthand the true effects. Logically, the impact of the unseen consequences may not always be physical in nature; the program’s outreach covers the unseen concomitant emotional damage caused by the crimes. The attorney general and district attorney have pledged continued support of this outstanding program. This continues to be great news in our growing city.
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