Earlier this week, the Sheriff’s Office joined the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) and other community partners to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month and to advocate for every person’s right to feel safe in their relationships, homes, and communities.
According to HAWC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men will experience domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime. It’s often a hidden threat in our community, lurking behind closed doors.
At a time when public health officials are urging us to stay at home as much as possible, domestic violence victims are finding their home to be a trap. We are seeing that isolation – while helping with the spread of coronavirus – is exacerbating any abuse that might have been taking place previously.
In response to the pandemic’s devastating consequences for people living with abusive partners and family members, HAWC and its partners launched the Safe at Home campaign. At the heart of the campaign is the notion that everyone deserves to live a life free from violence.
Our deputies are entrusted by our community to protect them. At the Sheriff’s Office, we take very seriously our duty to help those who are being hurt by someone who is supposed to love them. One of our most important responsibilities is investigating cases of abuse, which is why we have a dedicated Domestic Violence Unit and a Crime Victim Assistance Unit.
Earlier this year, our agency launched a new unit to tackle a key component of domestic violence – stalking. The goal of our Behavioral Threat Management Unit is to prevent volatile situations from escalating into harm or violence. Our agency strives to be proactive and work toward preventing these types of tragedies from occurring in our county.
And while the work of these units is always important, it is especially critical during a crisis. Our deputies know first-hand that crises foster unprecedented stress and uncertainty.
Our domestic violence related calls for service have gradually increased countywide since the end of February and are up compared to last year. There have been 87 homicides since January – 23 of those homicides were family violence related and 11 of the 23 homicides were committed by an intimate partner.
During this challenging time, many victims may feel compelled to cling to their homes and family, but no one should feel obligated to remain in an abusive relationship of any form. Domestic violence victims deserve our utmost compassion and support.
This type of violence was a public crisis long before COVID-19 and is believed to be an underreported crime. Let’s raise our collective voices against this serious, heartbreaking issue. As a community, we can keep an eye out for potential victims and pay attention to whether a situation seems dangerous for a neighbor, friend, or family member. When you suspect something is happening, trust your instincts and say something. Now more than ever, it’s really important to build community around a survivor.
We cannot do this alone. As an agency, we participate in a coordinated response against domestic violence that includes training for our deputies, encouraging residents to report incidents, and working closely with domestic violence partner agencies that provide essential crisis tools and resources to empower survivors. Our partners connect survivors to shelter assistance, legal consultations, employment opportunities, and more.
Below are some resources for residents who are either in a domestic violence situation or want to report a domestic violence situation:
- If you are in immediate danger, call or text 911.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or if you’re unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
- Houston Area’s Women Center’s 24/7 Hotlines:
- Domestic Violence Hotline: 713-528-2121
- Toll Free Line: 800-256-0551
- Rape Crisis Hotline: 713-528-7273
- Click here to learn more about HAWC’s services.
- Harris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Victims Unit: 713-274-9369
I encourage victims to come to us for assistance or to reach out to one of the many organizations in our region whose mission is to end domestic and sexual violence for all.
We stand together with domestic violence victims and survivors. We are a community. And we are here to support you.