Domestic violence and lethality
The following article is part one of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we hope to educate our community on this very important issue. 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 2,307 victims of abuse (faceto-face) primarily from Hays and Caldwell Counties. 1,047 of those were victims of domestic violence.
Intimate Partner homicides disproportionately affect women. Nearly half of the women who are murdered are killed by an intimate partner whereas only 5% of men are murdered the same way. Women murdered by an intimate partner in Texas are on the rise after 3 years of declining. 174 women were killed by an intimate partner in Texas in 2018. Intimate partner violence is dangerous not only to victims but also to others, including law enforcement officers.
The San Marcos community has been profoundly affected by intimate partner related homicide. We have lost 2 police officers in the past 3 years; both lost their lives to gunfire while responding to Domestic Violence Incidents. 100% of Law Enforcement Lives lost in San Marcos have been a direct result of domestic violence.
Officer Kenneth Copeland, the first officer to lose their life in the line of duty, was the first ever in the history of the San Marcos Police Department. Officer Copeland was killed by gunfire on December 4th, 2017 while serving an arrest warrant for a perpetrator of domestic violence. The San Marcos community suffered a devastating loss when Officer Copeland was killed. We suffered another great loss less than 3 years later when Officer Justin Putnam died by gunfire while responding to a domestic violence incident on April 18th of 2020.
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic violence for over 40 years. Sadly, we at HCWC know enough about the real danger of domestic violence that when we hear an officer was injured or killed in our community, we can’t help but think it was likely related to an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence. Responding to incidents of domestic violence is high on the list of the most dangerous interventions that law enforcement officers make. Of course, law enforcement officers are just some of the secondary victims of domestic violence homicide. Domestic Violence also affects children, pets and other family members. In 2018 a total of 290 children in Texas lost their mothers due to domestic violence homicide.
The best way to reduce the risk of homicide while responding to domestic violence calls is to reduce and eliminate domestic violence itself. While much of our community has shut down for the past few months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, calls to the HCWC 24-hour HELPline have not slowed down. We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are concerned that domestic violence is actually on the rise now, as a result of the pandemic. Stay at home orders and more time spent with violent partners along with possible Covid-19 related job loss and financial stress may be contributing to an increase in domestic violence.
We are committed to providing safe and confidential services to victims of domestic violence now, and always.. If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call our HELPLine 24/7 at 512-396-4357. For those in need of safety, our shelter is open and we have put safety procedures in place to protect clients from Covid-19. For others needing counseling, we have limited in-person services and remote services are available for adults and children who have experienced domestic violence and live, work or go to school in Hays or Caldwell county.