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By Danielle Ohlemacher

Texas Council on Family Violence Celebrates and Honors Five Fabulous  Women Leaders from Across Texas This Mother’s Day

Austin, TX (May 9, 2017)-This Mother’s Day the Texas Council on Family Violence is celebrating all the wonderful Texas moms who are making a difference in the lives of Texans.

TCFV praises the leadership of women who have made it their life’s work to empower other women. These women created remarkable services and policies, and challenge conditions that permit domestic violence to occur. These extraordinary women are also exceptional mothers. Thank you for making the world a better place.

“We are here today to honor all the mothers in Texas. The mother’s we have lost, the mothers who are here and the grandmothers who are now raising their grandchildren or never got to meet their grandchild because their mom was taken away in violent act of murder.  We are here, because we believe lives will be saved and we want to help people recognize the signs of domestic violence and empower them to help friends and co-workers who are in abusive relationships before it is too late,” said Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Annette Burrhus-Clay, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault – Austin, TX

Annette Burrhus-Clay has given selflessly of her time, talents and treasures to ameliorate violence against women. Her commitment is evidenced by her remarkable 21-year tenure at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. Annette is a fierce activist to the core, and her work influences state and national practice and policy. While her heart belongs to her four adult children, the center of her universe are her six grandchildren: Brayden, Anaya, Beau, Camille, Ami and two-week-old Norah.

“Kids taught me that I’m more capable than I thought and had a greater capacity for love than I imagined. Grandkids have taught me to let go of the unimportant things that keep us distracted or angry.”

Connie Gray, Focusing Families – Hempstead, TX

Connie Gray wears many hats at Focusing Families – children’s counselor, prevention director, and even mom! Connie’s adult daughter, Nicole, works alongside her at the agency, inspired by her mom’s passion. Together, they work in schools to change the culture and equip young people with the tools they need to empower themselves and build connections within their communities.

Connie is a steadfast advocate for young people. As a mom of three, her kids inspire her as much as she’s inspired them. “They taught me to believe the impossible and dream big.”

Rosa Hopkins, Women’s Center of East Texas – Longview, TX

Rosa Hopkins is the BIPP Coordinator at the Women’s Center of East Texas, where she works to hold batterers accountable and teach them the fundamentals of leading healthy, nonviolent relationships. She started working with offenders as an independent BIPP counselor because she saw the need in her community.

Rosa is well-respected in the community as a gifted and committed facilitator. Working with offenders isn’t always easy, but Rosa is driven by her compassion. Her own background – she is a survivor of domestic violence now happily married and the mother of two sons – fuels her empathy and ability to build connections in her work. “They’re human beings – I’m here to be an example of what kindness looks like, what human compassionate looks like.”

Toni Johnson-Simpson, Denton County Friends of the Family – Denton, TX

Toni Johnson-Simpson’s journey towards executive leader of the Denton County Friends of the Family started as an altruistic 21-year-old college student. Her passion has never flagged since. Toni expects more from her community in regard to victim compassion, batterer accountability and access to services because she knows that all children deserve it. And while her professional accomplishments are impressive, her personal ones monumental. Toni is a mom to three: daughter Ebonie and twins Justin and Jaydah. Toni credits her children for teaching her to love and to take time to enjoy life. When things get difficult she embraces wise words from Jaydah: “I’m going to celebrate how much I DID get done because I am still fabulous.” Yes, Toni – you are.

Rosie Martinez- Victims Unit Director at Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s office

Rosie Martinez has dedicated her career of over 16 years to victim services and currently serves as the Victims Unit Director at Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s office. Victims’ services has been more than a career for Rosie; she calls it her “passion and lifetime mission,” and it shows in her leadership throughout the community. Rosie volunteers on the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force, Rio Grande Valley Human Trafficking Coalition, Child Fatality Review Team, Citizen’s Review Team of DFPS, and the Hidalgo County Truancy Policy Committee.   A mom to five and grandmother of three, Rosie says her kids drive her work. “The sense of accomplishment that comes from hearing your children tell you that you are their inspiration, their role model, that they are proud of you and that they want to be like you is the best feeling in life.”

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Texas Council on Family Violence is the only 501(c) 3 nonprofit coalition in Texas dedicated solely to creating safer communities and freedom from family violence. With a state-wide reach and direct local impact, TCFV, with the collective strength of more than 1000 members, shapes public policy, equips service providers, and initiates strategic prevention efforts. Visit us online at http://www.tcfv.org/

Moms Make a Difference!

On Mother’s Day, TCFV acknowledges the leadership of women who have made it their life’s work to empower other women. These women create remarkable services and policies and challenge conditions that permit violence to occur. These extraordinary women are also exceptional mothers. Thank you for making the world a better place.

Annette Burrhus-Clay, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault – Austin, TX

Annette Burrhus-Clay has given selflessly of her time, talents and treasures to ameliorate violence against women. Her commitment is evidenced by her remarkable 21-year tenure at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. Annette is a fierce activist to the core, and her work influences state and national practice and policy. While her heart belongs to her four adult children, the center of her universe are her six grandchildren: Brayden, Anaya, Beau, Camille, Ami and two-week-old Norah.

“Kids taught me to I’m more capable than I thought and had a greater capacity for love than I imagined. Grandkids have taught me to let go of the unimportant things that keep us distracted or angry.”

Connie Gray, Focusing Families – Hempstead, TX

Connie Gray wears many hats at Focusing Families – children’s counselor, prevention director, and even mom! Connie’s adult daughter, Nicole, works alongside her at the agency, inspired by her mom’s passion. Together, they work in schools to change the culture and equip young people with the tools they need to empower themselves and build connections within their communities.

Connie is a steadfast advocate for young people. {waiting for more context}. As a mom of three, her kids inspire her as much as she’s inspired them. “They taught me to believe the impossible and dream big.”

 

Rosa Hopkins, Women’s Center of East Texas – Longview, TX

Rosa Hopkins is the BIPP Coordinator at the Women’s Center of East Texas, where she works to hold batterers accountable and teach them the fundamentals of leading healthy, nonviolent relationships. She started working with offenders as an independent BIPP counselor because she saw the need in her community.

Rosa is well-respected in the community as a gifted and committed facilitator. Working with offenders isn’t always easy, but Rosa is driven by her compassion. Her own background – she is a survivor of domestic violence now happily married and the mother of two sons – fuels her empathy and ability to build connections in her work. “They’re human beings – I’m here to be an example of what kindness looks like, what human compassionate looks like.”

Toni Johnson-Simpson, Denton County Friends of the Family – Denton, TX

Toni Johnson-Simpson’s journey towards executive leader of the Denton County Friends of the Family started as an altruistic 21-year-old college student. Her passion has never flagged since. Toni expects more from her community in regards to victim compassion, batterer accountability and access to services because she knows that all children deserve it. And while her professional accomplishments are impressive, her personal ones monumental. Toni is a mom to three: daughter Ebonie and twins Justin and Jaydah.

Toni credits her children for teaching her to love and to take time to enjoy life. When things get difficult she embraces wise words from Jaydah: “I’m going to celebrate how much I DID get done because I am still fabulous.” Yes, Toni – you are.

 

Rosie Martinez

Rosie Martinez has dedicated her career of over 16 years to victim services and currently serves as the Victims Unit Director at Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s office. Victims’ services has been more than a career for Rosie; she calls it her “passion and lifetime mission,” and it shows in her leadership throughout the community. Rosie volunteers on the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force, Rio Grande Valley Human Trafficking Coalition, Child Fatality Review Team, Citizen’s Review Team of DFPS, and the Hidalgo County Truancy Policy Committee.

A mom to five and grandmother of three, Rosie says her kids drive her work. “The sense of accomplishment that comes from hearing your children tell you that you are their inspiration, their role model, that they are proud of you and that they want to be like you is the best feeling in life.”


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Safe Moms, Safe Kids

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Violence within families is complex, and requires our whole community to work together to promote safe and nurturing homes. Family violence survivors who are parents play an instrumental role in helping promote the safety and well-being of their children. By supporting survivors parents, we can support their role as protective parents. 

Family violence programs and child advocacy organizations each have a role to play in promoting safe families. We are united in our goals and in our guiding principles. One such guiding principle? That enhancing the safety of the parent who is a victim of domestic violence enhances the child’s safety. We asked our partners in this vital work to share what that guiding principle means to them. 

“Enhancing the safety of the parent who is a victim of domestic violence enhances the child’s safety.”


Leigh Ann Fry, Executive Director of Noah Project:

The idea of keeping children safe should be a simple concept. In its most basic form it means to do whatever it takes to secure a safe, healthy life for a child. However, the safety of a child cannot be teased apart from the safety of a protective parent who also happens to be a victim of family violence. For too long those concepts did not co-exist.

Within the last few years we have come to understand in a deep and meaningful way that often the best way to keep a child safe is to keep their victim parent safe. Through careful safety planning, recognizing and highlighting the protective capacities that a parent already may have in place, or helping them to identify new means of protective capacity, we are doing our part to secure safety for children. Additionally, it is essential in moving forward with enhancing victim safety that we hold batterers accountable. It is unfortunate that this continues to frequently be the greatest barrier to enhanced safety. Frequently the focus is put on requiring the victim to participate in some type of services rather than holding the batterer accountable. We cannot and should not allow the excuse that the batterer refuses services or disappears altogether during investigative periods. The vehicles of BIPP and best practices in community collaboration are only some of the tools immediately at our disposal for batterer accountability.

We must recognize that for many this is a relatively new concept and it is the diligent work of providers that will help turn the tides of victim blaming and welcome a paradigm shift where we recognize child safety and parent safety as synonymous.


Judge Darlene Byrne, 126th Civil District Court, Travis County:

After more than a decade of hearing CPS cases, I have held more than 14,000 hearings and seen firsthand how the safety of the child is intimately tied to the safety of the victim of domestic violence. A very high percentage of these cases involve domestic violence, either as an immediate crisis or past experiences that have contributed to the trauma and behaviors of those involved.  In most of my cases, the children want to be with one or both of their parents in the end. They just want the adults they love to stop fighting with their hands and words and to live in a home free from violence in which no one is hurt. As we move toward safety and permanency for a child, however, the Court and all Court participants must understand that domestic violence is complex. Safety doesn’t immediately happen when a CPS case has been filed, or a kick-out order issued, or a protective order sought. In fact, the initiation of these actions may be the most unsafe time for the victim and the children involved. When CPS and domestic violence cases collide, judges and court teams need the assistance of professionals who are well-trained in the complexities of domestic violence to help them make the safest possible decisions for the victim and children involved.


Christina Green, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas Director of Public Affairs and Sarah Crockett, Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates Public Policy Coordinator:

Children are our future, our legacy, our hope – and in Texas, the protection and safety of our children is paramount. During April’s focus on child abuse awareness it is important to emphasize that protecting children is not the responsibility of one person, one group, one agency, or one entity. Rather, the responsibility to keep our children safe rests on all of us.

Strong communities, buoyed up by public-private partnerships that support strong families, are a critical part of keeping families and children safe. Local community programs like children’s advocacy centers, court appointed special advocates (CASA), and family violence programs let children and families know that they are not alone and have resources, services, and caring people to walk alongside them through some of their most difficult times. The result is a stronger system and superior services for children and families. It is only with this multifaceted, all-hands-on-deck approach that we can ensure that families have the tools and 360-degree support they need to break the cycle of all types of abuse.

We are part of a system that is greater than the sum of its parts, and the work that we do together produces more resilient and hopeful communities and families. Rather than turning a blind eye to what can be a difficult and heartbreaking topic, will you be a part of this collective solution in your local community? Join us this month by wearing blue to raise awareness, volunteering, or starting a courageous conversation. We can’t do it without you.


Deborah Tucker, Domestic Violence Specialist, Division of Practice Excellence, Child Protective Services, Department of Family and Protective Services:

Child Protective Services took to heart the Guiding Principles of the Task Force to Address the Relationship between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse and Neglect. April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month provides opportunity to share practice changes that better protect Texas children and adults harmed by the same perpetrator.

In partnership with the Texas Council on Family Violence the Disposition Guidelines for Domestic Violence assist CPS to determine the best intervention when child abuse and domestic violence are alleged. Among the underlying philosophical shifts at CPS the Guidelines reinforce separately considering the actions of each parent/caretaker.

Instead of CPS reports that read “the parents were fighting, the child got between them and was struck,” reports now say “John hit Jane. Jack tried to step between to protect his mother and John hit him too.” This allows CPS to better coordinate services for the family.

CPS training promotes partnerships with adult victims, including connecting them with Family Violence Programs (FVPs), family, and friends who help keep them and their children safe. To support changes in behavior CPS Family Group Decision-Making meetings now include FVPs and welcome mentors of the person using the violence. If best for safety, CPS arranges for participation of the perpetrator by phone rather than in-person.

These are among many examples of how CPS, TCFV, and FVPs apply the Guiding Principles to protect children and adults while seeking to end violence. We make a difference together.


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