The November calendar is full of national reminders about healthy families and relationships. It’s Child Safety and Protection Month, and Nov. 24 begins Family Week. If you’re in a safe, rewarding environment, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to practice gratitude. But for some, home has become a place of hurt and fear.
Meanwhile, October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, highlighting a huge problem in this area. In 2017, Bexar County racked up the highest per capita rate of “intimate partner” killings in the state, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence. Last year, 29 people here – mostly women – were slain by somebody who at some point probably told them, “I love you.”
Homicide is just the tip of the iceberg. Broken bones, broken families, broken spirits are all part of the cycle of violence, which seems to repeat over many generations. Unfortunately, it’s not something confined to a month. It happens all year, every year.
“Domestic violence has reached epic proportions here,” state District Judge Peter Sakai recently said. “All we have to do is watch the news to see it.”
Sakai presides over the 225th state District Court/Children’s Court and places a direct correlation between domestic violence and abuse and neglect of youngsters. This moved him to found the Commission on Collaborative Strategies to Prevent, Combat and Respond to Domestic Violence. The group, which Sakai co-chairs with 150th Civil District Court Judge Monique Diaz and San Antonio Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger (until recently the head of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District), is bringing together city and county law enforcement, the courts, health and mental services, social services and others.
The goal: to find and fix gaps in available programs and develop some new approaches.
Better application of existing laws prohibiting gun possession for those on court orders for violence or mental health is one step — a big one, since more than half of domestic killings statewide in recent years have been shootings.
Streamlining and coordinating agencies to make legal, judicial and police assistance available for victims who report domestic violence is another. Better risk assessment is one more vital part of the picture.
The City Council’s recently approved budget for this fiscal year addresses the problem, too, with funding for a new program with University Hospital, new police officers focused on domestic violence, and increased aid to shelters and nonprofits.
Marta Peláez, CEO and president of Family Violence Prevention Services, recently reported the daily census of residents at the nonprofit’s Battered Women and Children’s Shelter has risen from 68 to 196 in the last few years.
In October, Peláez was among those on hand to kick off San Antonio’s new Domestic Violence Awareness campaign called “Love Is … .”
Through videos, ads and educational programming, it aims to identify what love is and isn’t.
The courts and cops can only do so much. Long-term, the culture has to change. It’s not impossible, but it takes the whole community. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen or read about a man who killed his wife or ex-wife or girlfriend, yet keeps insisting “I love her” all the way to prison.
If he or she hits, hurts or threatens you or your children, that’s not love. It’s not going to turn into love. If you need help, call Family Violence Prevention Services’ crisis hotline at 210-733-8810. If you’re in danger, call 911. Show your kids what real love is and get them away from abuse. One child and one generation at a time, we need to carry the message and provide for folks in need.