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Believe Survivors

Did you know that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in Texas?  

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) and TCFV stands united with our partners, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and programs working across the state and country to end sexual assault. As Texans who care about ending violence in our state, we recognize the importance of knowing the key facts about sexual violence and being champions for all survivors.

The Facts about Sexual Assault in Texas:

  • 3 million Texans have experienced sexual assault— that’s one third of all Texans.
  • 413,000 Texans are sexually assaulted each year.
  • 92% of survivors never report to law enforcement.
  • 3% of rapists spend any time behind bars.

While sexual and domestic violence are distinct forms of violence that require their own approaches, our movements have always worked hand in hand to build a safer Texas. Here are just a few of the connections between sexual and domestic violence.

 1. Sexual assault and domestic violence are choices.

Violence is not natural, unpredictable, or uncontrollable. Abusers choose to be violent, and they can choose to stop. Perpetrators specifically target their abusive behaviors to people who (they think) they can get away with hurting. When we recognize violence as an individual’s choice, not an inevitability, we open opportunities for change.

 2. Sexual assault and domestic violence are social issues, not just individual crimes.

Perpetrators of violence are responsible for their own violence. Yet behaviors have context: social and cultural ideas about power, control, masculinity, and gender shape and influence all of us. When we acknowledge the cultures of violence within our communities, we can address deep-rooted beliefs that condone and reward violence.

3. Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence are both subjected to victim-blaming.

“Why was she wearing that?”

“Why didn’t he fight back?”

“Why didn’t she just leave?”

Survivors are often asked accusatory questions that frame them as responsible for the violence committed against them. Victim-blaming shifts the focus from the actual perpetrator of violence onto the survivor. This is part a culture of violence that excuses the perpetrator’s choices and actions. When we listen to survivors and believe them, we can combat victim-blaming and focus on real solutions to violence.

4. We all have a role to play in building a safer Texas.

Ending violence means changing our culture – and everyone has a role to play in promoting safe and healthy standards. Check out the SAAPM toolkits from Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for actions you can take during April – and all year long – to prevent sexual violence in our communities. 

Do you want to learn more about TCFV’s work and stay up-to-date with new resources? Sign up for our email list! 

Image credit: National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Creating Safer Spaces Initiatives: Why ‘Safer’?


“A victim who is no longer hit by a partner but has no way to feed her children or pay the rent is not safe…Victims are safe when there is no violence, their basic human needs are met, and they experience social and emotional well-being.”

– Jill M. Davies & Eleanor Lyons

Have you ever attended one of TCFV’s trainings or read our materials and wondered; Why do they seem so intent on using the term ‘safer’ and not ‘safety’? It seems like a small difference, but shifting those two letters actually reflecst the core tenant of a service philosophy.

The philosophy: survivors of domestic violence are the experts in their own lives. Developed by leaders of the domestic violence movement, Jill M. Davies & Eleanor Lyons, this philosophy calls on advocates to focus on creating a space where survivors can reach out for the services they say they need.

It also encompasses a simple, but critical notion: Leaving does not equal safety & safety is much more than leaving. As a movement initiated by women, including women of color and the LGBTQ community who have experienced additional oppression, we are keenly aware that safety is not always easily found.


  • Has a victim who has left their abusive partner and has nowhere to go achieved “safety”?
  • Is a victim at a shelter who is currently seeking custody of their children “safe”?
  • Is a homeless woman with domestic violence in her past “safe” on the streets?
  • What if that victim lives in poverty or is undocumented?

TCFV has created a series of trainings and resources that embrace this philosophy. We work with programs across Texas to create safer spaces for survivors to seek services, access legal remedies, and speak out about the violence they have experienced.

One way we can create safer spaces for survivors is to consider something as basic as the forms that programs use. For many survivors, the initial contact with a service provider is the moment they chose to engage with a supportive partner or to leave. Yet sometimes, the initial contact with a program can be frustrating because of forms that are repetitive or unintentionally serve to re-victimize the survivor.

The Resource Checklist - click to expand
The Resource Checklist – click to expand

After interviewing over 100 Texas survivors and program experts, we developed new model forms that are friendly and welcoming. Texas contains a wide variety of communities and cultures, so the forms take literacy and language access into account.

For example, the Resource Checklist gives survivors a quick overview of the services a survivor can access at a domestic violence center. Sometimes trauma exposure can affect the way survivors’ process information and focus. The new form separates the information into boxes with distinct colors and easy-to-understand language so that the content is easier to focus on. For each resource on the Checklist, TCFV also provides tip sheets for advocates. This gives advocates the tools they needed to support survivors on identified assistance areas.

Safety may not be simple, but by recognizing survivors as the experts in their own lives, we can work together to create safer spaces for everyone.

Do you want to learn more about TCFV’s work and stay up-to-date with new resources? Sign up for our email list! 

Image credit: “Close up of lavender flower” by Elminium is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Six women were killed by a male intimate partner in one week

Each year, TCFV tracks and analyzes every domestic violence fatality; last month we uncovered a distressing trend. From February 9 to February 16, six women lost their lives to domestic violence. One child was killed, and 8 children lost a parent.
We track these trends in order to help communities identify and analyze distinguishing characteristics of these cases. We need your help to create a safer Texas for all women. Will you sign and share the Purple Postcard in support of our work to preserve and increase funding for domestic violence programs?

What we know about the murders:

  • The six women were killed in five counties: Grimes, Hays, Harris, Navarro and Travis.
  • Five of the women were killed in their own homes.
  • The sixth woman was killed near a public road.
  • Every perpetrator used a gun to kill their partner.  

We only have a few more days left to make your voice heard. By signing the Postcard, you can tell your legislators that Texans care about the safety of domestic violence victims

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5 Reasons to Sign the Purple Postcard: Legislative Agenda

When you Purple_Postcard_Iconsign the Purple Postcard you support our Legislative Agenda to help Texas domestic violence survivors. The common thread of the Legislative Agenda this session? Empowering survivors and supporting their safety planning. Here are five ways to support survivors this legislative session: 

1) Fully fund domestic violence programs that provide shelter and other services to victims

In 2015, 158 women were killed by a male intimate partner. That same year, 39% of requests for services were turned away due to lack of resources.  When you sign the Purple Postcard, you become part of a network of dedicated individuals and organizations advocating for the importance of domestic violence services. Now is a critical time to stand up for survivors and tell your legislators that you support full funding for domestic violence programs.

2) Keep survivors’ home addresses confidential 

Everyone deserves to be safe at home. For victims of domestic violence, part of safety planning can be keeping their home address private. While current laws allows survivors to make their addresses confidential in certain public records, there are still loopholes. For example, owning a home may put a victim’s address in the public record, allowing an abuser to potentially locate the victim. Tell your legislator to close the loopholes and make it easier for victims to keep their homes safe.

3) Protect victims from extreme and long-term abuse

Protective orders provide an added level of security for survivors. Unfortunately, Texas protective orders rarely last longer than two years, and some judges enter them for even shorter periods of time. Under the current law, only some survivors can be granted a protective order that lasts longer than two years. Often, victims who have been threatened with guns, hit by vehicles, or even stabbed are not granted long-term protective orders. Call on your legislator to update the rules and make sure that victims can access long-term protective orders.

4) Train child custody mediators on domestic violence 

Domestic violence makes decisions on child custody even more complex. Child custody professionals need training on domestic violence to help keep survivors and their children safe. Currently, mediators that handle child custody cases have no domestic violence training requirements. Lawyers and advocates agree – survivor parents use mediation, so mediators need the tools to identify and respond to abusive behavior in mediation. Let your legislator know that domestic violence training for mediators helps keep survivors and children safer.

5) Allow domestic violence survivors to get services privately and confidentially 

Intimate partner violence is just that – intimate. Vulnerable Texans should be able to get the help they need from domestic violence programs and safely share intimate details that will promote their healing without having to worry that it will become public. Unlike the majority of states, Texas has not yet granted critical confidentiality protections to bolster federal protections. State privacy and confidentiality protections would support the ability of victims to seek help when they need it most. Support a victim’s right to seek help confidentially.

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Honoring the Stories of Survivors

“She was the glue who kept her family together.”

“Committed her life to showing kindness to those around her.”

 “Passionate about the welfare of others, always lending a helping hand, ensuring all were treated fairly.”

“Never afraid to follow her dreams.”

-Families & friends describe women killed by domestic violence
In 2015, 158 women were murdered by a male intimate partner in Texas: the highest TCFV has ever recorded. The number is shocking, but it’s not unusual. Every year, more than 100 women are killed in Texas by a boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, husband or ex-husband.

At TCFV, we are committed to telling the story of domestic violence in Texas. Since 1990, we’ve published the Honoring Texas Victims report – because we know that every woman deserves to be counted. Within this report, you’ll find factual accounts of the women killed by their partners, telling each story with utmost care and respect. I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on some of these women’s stories. It is heartbreaking, necessary work to bring domestic violence out of the shadows.

Yet the story of fatalities is sadly just the tip of the iceberg where Texas domestic violence is concerned. Nationally, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. In Texas, that number rises to one in three. Chances are that someone you know – if not you – has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

Now more than ever, it’s essential that we work together to tell the story of domestic violence in Texas. Family violence is knowable, predictable, and preventable. Knowing the facts about domestic violence is the first step in being able to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable. 

At the start of a new year, we want to make sure you have the resources you need to tell your story. Our new Learn the Facts statistics resource page is designed to be your one shop stop for facts about domestic violence in Texas. The charts, posters, infographics and reports found on this page will help you elevate the voice of survivors and share the facts about domestic violence in your community. We can’t wait to hear what you think – so let us know!

Want to stay up-to-date with Texas domestic violence news and TCFV’s work? Join our email list!

Domestic Violence and Firearms


Does having a gun in the home keep you safer? For victims of domestic violence, the answer is a resounding no.

Domestic violence abusers can use to firearms threaten, endanger, and intimidate their victims in order to exercise power and control. In a recent survey of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline[i]:

  • 16% of the callers said their partners had access to guns, 22% of whom had threatened to use the firearm to kill the victim or her family or to kill themselves.
  • 10% said their partner had actually fired the gun in an argument.
  • 67% of the callers believed their partner was capable of killing them.

Last year, 158 women were killed by a male intimate partner, 97 of them with a firearm.

Under state and federal law, felons, respondents to protective orders, and convicted family violence abusers cannot possess firearms. Texas law allows the local criminal justice community to come together to implement firearm surrender protocols, however only a few have done so.

Survivors, along with nearly 80% of Texans, support requiring domestic violence abusers to surrender their firearms.[ii] 

Key jurisdictions have adopted firearm surrender protocols. For instance, Dallas County Judge Roberto Cañas led the development and implementation of a system in his jurisdiction tailored to work in that community. Bexar, El Paso and Travis Counties have also taken on similar bold efforts.

TCFV works with communities to develop policies that keep survivors safe and hold offenders accountable. We provide education and support for cities and towns dedicated to disarming domestic violence abusers.

Your support can help implement solutions that offer real world answers to lethal family violence. Sign the Purple Postcard to tell our legislators that you support full funding for domestic violence services. 

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Your Advocacy At Work


How can signing a simple postcard help build a safer Texas?

Last legislative session, supporters of the Purple Postcard like you galvanized Texas lawmakers to protect and increase family violence program funding. In turn, programs across the state have been hard at work to turn that funding into safer communities.

Childcare helps move survivors and their children forward

In Dallas, new funding enabled the Family Place to deepen their services for child survivors of family violence. Their Child Development Center and School-Age Program provides childcare that specializes in the needs of child survivors: separation anxiety, grief, and fear. The childcare services help families heal and grow as well as allowing time for parents to look for a job or find housing.

“Survivors have so much they have to do and so much weighing on them,” said Angela Walker, Vice President of Residential Services, “to know they can go out and their children are in the care of qualified professionals can have such a great impact on the future of that family.”

Prevention work supports students and professionals

In Sherman, Grayson Crisis Center is working to prevent violence before it happens. The school-based prevention program works with both students and school professionals to build confidence and skills. “Having a whole community to support the individual receiving the education is a critical component,” said Shelli Shields, Primary Prevention Coordinator. “When a student hears a consistent message from the program, from peers, from parents, from teachers, from other professionals, it will have a greater impact.”

Funding from the last legislative session has allowed the program to continue for its third and fourth year and expand within the community. 

Legal services offer guidance through complex issues

Texas Advocacy Project is expanding their work to provide survivors with high-quality legal services thanks to new state funding. TAP helps survivors through the complex legal system, from prosecution of a perpetrator, to protective orders, to divorce and custody issues. “Many of these survivors have been told [by their abuser] that they’ll never get custody or a divorce, that no one will believe them,” said Heather Bellino, Executive Director of TAP, and getting access to legal services “can be that tipping point for someone.”

With new state funding, TAP hired an additional staff attorney, which means they can provide support for an additional 700 cases as well as hundreds of hours of telephone service through the program’s legal hotline.

In a single year, Texas family violence programs serve more than 70,000 women, children and men because home is not safe.

Will you stand alongside Texas survivors and support full funding for services by signing the Purple Postcard?

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Working Together


In Laredo, Anjelica Martinez was murdered by her husband last year. Her three young children, ages 3, 8, and 9, are left without a mother.

Pregnancy and early motherhood is a particularly dangerous time for women and their young children in an abusive relationship. Around 25% of women murdered by a male intimate partner last year were either pregnant or were mothers to young children, according to TCFV’s Honoring Texas Victims Report.

“We know that domestic violence is exacerbated during pregnancy,” said Sister Rosemary Welsh, Executive Director at Casa de Misericordia. “But a lot of people don’t recognize [domestic violence] as a public health issue.”

Doctors and patients have routine conversations about nutrition and exercise, but when was the last time your health care provider asked you about your relationship? Simple but effective screenings for domestic can help survivors get the help they need safely.

Casa de Misericordia is partnering with local health care providers this week to recognize Health Cares About Domestic Violence (HCADV) Day on October 12. HCADV Day is an opportunity for health care providers and domestic violence advocates to build meaningful connections and promote tools and techniques to support survivors. 

One key takeaway? “Look them in the eye,” advises Sister Rosemary to doctors and health care workers. “There are so many touchstones in how health providers can intervene in domestic violence.”

She recounted the case of a woman with diabetes whose blood sugar continued to be high despite consistent check-ins at home and at the clinic. The promotores (community health workers) noticed that her husband was always with her and answered questions for her. “He wanted to come into the room at the clinic,” said Sister Rosemary, and when nurses turned him away, he gave his wife his phone – with a call connected so he could listen in.

The promotores kept following up with the patient, and eventually she confided her abusive relationship. “She had told her physician when she was pregnant, but they didn’t do anything. We were the first people who seemed to care. She continues to come to us, and she knows there is a lifeline out there,” explained Sister Rosemary. 

Dr. Joselyn Fisher, Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics at Baylor College of Medicine, recalled similar experiences. “I’ve seen many cases were women have been in abusive relationships for a long period of time and were never asked, and they experienced partner violence far longer than they might have.”

Baylor College of Medicine is also planning to Go Purple this October. The campus will light their fountain up purple and hang purple lights to recognize domestic violence in their community, and share awareness posters with contact information for local shelters. The school will also host a panel that provides continuing medical education credits. 

Want to get involved in Health Cares about Domestic Violence Day? Here’s three easy ways:

  1. Share a fact about health and domestic violence
  2. Join TCFV’s webinar: HCADV – The Texas Health Summit and Future Developments
  3. Sign the Purple Postcard below to tell your legislator you support family violence programs. 

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Everyone Can Play A Role

Pillich2Everyone can play a role in preventing domestic violence. Caring adults – educators, parents, and community members – play an important role in the lives of young people at a time when they are learning necessary skills to form positive relationships with others. Adults like Coach Pillich in Manor, TX work with young people to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence that can last into adulthood before they begin. This is why she is the 2016 Young Hearts Matter Advocate of the Year.

Do you know a young activist or adult who partners with young people to prevent teen dating violence and domestic violence? Nominate them for the 2017 Young Hearts Matter Awards. Recipients are announced in February 2017 and receive a $200 honorarium. Nomination deadline: December 16th, 2016. Contact Jessica Moreno, Prevention Coordinator for more info. Jmoreno@tcfv.org

Schools can play a role too! Submit a toolkit request form by December 16th and have the Young Hearts Matter toolkit delivered to campuses in your community in time for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in February! 


The most common form of abuse


Did you know that 99% of domestic violence survivors reported experiencing some form of financial abuse?

Financial abuse focused on maintaining control and limiting a survivor’s access to financial resources. It includes:

  • Forbidding a partner to work
  • Sabotaging a partner’s employment
  • Denying a partner’s access to money
  • Hiding assets from a partner
  • Taking on credit or utility debt in a partner’s name

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5 Reasons to Sign the Purple Postcard


1. You can amplify the voice of domestic violence survivors. 

Sign the Postcard to show you stand alongside survivors. We are powerful when we speak in unison.

2. 15,000 adults seeking shelter from an abusive relationship were turned away last year. 

Nearly 40% of adults seeking shelter are turned away due solely to lack of space. Everyone deserves a place to stay when home is not safe. 

3. Now is the best time to make our voices heard.

The Texas legislature only meets every other year. Now is the best opportunity to make sure that funding for domestic violence services is preserved and increased.

4. You believe in safe and healthy communities.

What would our communities look like if safe and healthy relationships were the expectation for everyone? Working together, we can change community norms and promote values that help us all be safe. 

5. Family violence murders are knowable, predictable and preventable.

158 women were killed by a male intimate partner in 2015 – one death is too many. Domestic violence deaths exhibit predictable patterns. We can redouble our efforts to prevent them.

I support full funding for family violence services!

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