Recommitting to freedom from violence and abuse

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an important time to recognize the brave victims and survivors of domestic violence, and a reminder that it remains an epidemic in America. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States – totaling more than 12 million women and men annually.  

Texas prevention and response resources

In Texas, the statistics are similarly staggering. The Texas Council on Family Violence reports that 1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. With an increased understanding about the specialized needs of survivors, and better education and training, organizations across Texas can more effectively handle domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking cases.

 For those living in Hays County, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) serves as a pillar of hope—ensuring that victims and survivors get access to shelter, counseling, crisis management, and legal services, and responding to domestic violence cases with dignity and respect.

 While response efforts are critical, we should also dedicate sufficient resources to prevention efforts. By showing young people what it means to be in a healthy relationship, and by working to change attitudes and beliefs that have historically enabled domestic violence, like through HCWC’s Prevention Education programs, we can break the cycle of violence.                                                                                                                  

Preserving the Violence Against Women Act

In September, we celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—landmark legislation that has helped make our country safer and empower survivors of violence to share their voices and seek help. Since the passage of VAWA, the number of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and comprehensive service programs has increased significantly. VAWA also established the National Domestic Violence Hotline for victims and survivors to seek assistance with dignity and respect. Based in Central Texas, the Hotline has logged more than 4 million calls since it opened in 1996. The Violence Against Women Act will be up for reauthorization next year, and it is essential that we extend this important law. I stand with survivors and will continue to support policies that protect them.

Recommitting ourselves

Before there was a Texas Council on Family Violence, I first got involved as a young Texas State Senator in helping a group of committed Central Texas women secure state funds to launch what was then the Center for Battered Women. It is important to remember these early victories as we face more challenges in protecting women from violence.

Obstacles remain. We have a president who has openly made disturbing comments condoning violence against women and attempts to rollback important protections for victims and survivors of sexual assault, such as Title IX. We must resist dangerous policies that do not protect victims and survivors.

Additionally, specific challenges over the last few weeks persist – 32 domestic violence programs in Texas have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Some had flooding damage, and others had staff and clients trapped in domestic violence shelters for days. Research shows that when disasters strike, domestic violence cases rise. We must be vigilant in ensuring domestic violence shelters and programs receive the funding they need to continue serving those who need them the most.

Beyond improving laws, we can do more. We should empower survivors to come forward and seek justice, not make it more difficult. During this time of reflection, let us honor the courageous survivors and hardworking individuals who ensure that victim services are available and ensure that those who condone violence are held accountable.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center at 512-396-4357.  

Doggett represents the 35th Congressional District, which includes Hays County 

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666