Hear a Survivor’s Story and How New GPS and Protective Order Legislation Will Better Protect Victims
El Paso, Texas – July 15, 2015– The Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) and the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV) today praises El Paso State Senator Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Joe Moody, Rep. Cesar Blanco, Rep. Marisa Marquez, TCFV Board Chair, El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza and the 84th Texas Legislature for their overwhelming support of victims of domestic violence in Texas.
“These El Paso leaders championed the cause to better protect communities and families here in El Paso and across Texas. They passed new laws to hold domestic violence offenders accountable and advocated for increasing funding dedicated for domestic violence and achieved the most significant increase in the last decade,” said Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council of Family Violence.
SB 737- Increases Safety by Speeding Up Protective Orders
Senator Rodriguez and Rep. Moody sponsored SB 737, signed into law by the Governor, which requires protective orders be placed into the system within three days of being issued so that there are no longer month or longer delays in getting them into the system. This is important because without having the orders in the database, law enforcement may determine not to arrest the violator of a protective order and lives are at stake in these cases every day the protective order is not in the system.
“Delays in notification make enforcement more difficult and can have deadly consequences, especially when an officer arrives at the scene of a family violence investigation without knowing this crucial information,” Sen. Rodríguez said. “This is one of several bills I passed to address this and other gaps in how we protect victims of crime.”
HB 2645-Increases Safety by Making Tampering with GPS a Criminal Offense
Rep. Cesar Blanco sponsored a bill that makes destroying or tampering with the normal use of a global positioning monitor (GPS) in a family violence case a violation of protective order and a criminal offense. This will protect victims of domestic violence so the offender can be arrested immediately if he tries to remove the device and go after the victim.
$8 Million Dollar Total Increase For Domestic Violence Victims
The Texas Budget signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott increases support for domestic violence victims by more than $8 million dollars over the previous legislative session.
$3 Million Dollar Increase In General Revenue
Highlights include a $3 million dollar increase in funding for domestic violence shelter and resource center services, including $53.9 million for core services. In addition appropriators dedicated $3 million in Exceptional Item Funding for legal services, economic options for survivors, prevention, domestic violence fatality review and targeted approaches related identified needs within the State Plan. Legislators realized the significant need for these services: over 84,000 people served in shelters and resource centers last year and a 31% turn away rate due lack of resources spurred this overall commitment by the legislature to providing a total of $59.9 million for family violence center services.
$1 Million Dollar Increase- First Increase in 15 Years for Batter Intervention & Prevention Programs
The budget also includes a $1 million dollar increase in Batter Intervention Prevention Programs funding, the first increase in 15 years and a significant criminal justice reform. Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs offer group educational sessions to hold men who batter accountable and are designed to challenge their belief structures that support abusive behavior and ultimately create behavior change.
$4 Million Dollars to Create Domestic Violence High Risk Teams Across the State
In addition, the Legislature approved and funded one of Governor Abbott’s legislative priorities: “High Risk Domestic Violence Teams”. The Governor, working with legislative leaders Senator Joan Huffman and Rep. Carol Alvarado passed HB 3327 that will create these teams across the state, supplying $4 million dollars in funding for the Attorney General’s office to make this a reality.
The Domestic Violence High Risk Teams foster a coordinated community response to the worst and most dangerous kinds of domestic violence cases. They unite law enforcement, prosecutors, medical professionals, victim advocates and others at the local level to review cases of domestic violence and to identify, monitor, and contain the most dangerous perpetrators before they can inflict deadly harm.
“This budget will further protect victims of domestic violence in the State of Texas,” said Gloria A. Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence. “Domestic Violence programs need additional money to provide shelter, legal services, counseling and other assistance to protect Texans from offenders who violate the law and represent a serious risk of danger to victims of domestic violence. We want to thank Rep. Marquez who sits on the Appropriations Committee for advocating for victims of domestic violence and thank TCFV Board Chair, El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza for spending countless hours testifying on behalf of our legislative agenda and advocating powerfully for victims of domestic violence.”
Texas leads the nation in the number of people seeking services that are turned away due to lack of resources and there is still more work and more resources that will need to be accomplished next legislative session. Last year, over 84,000 women, children and men found safe sanctuary from violence at domestic violence shelters. In 2013, 119 women were killed by their male intimate partner. More than 61,000 adult victims and their children received services such as legal advocacy, counseling and other support. Necessary state funding helps support 86 family violence programs in Texas, which include shelters, nonresidential centers and special project sites. But the unfortunate reality remains that 31% of adult victims (11,485) requesting shelter were turned away due to lack of space. In fact, according to a one-day census of family violence centers, Texas has the highest number of unmet requests for services compared to any other state in the country.