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By Danielle Ohlemacher

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. 

Sign the Purple Postcard

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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!

Sign the Purple Postcard

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Spotlight on a Young Leader

“I wasn’t a typical high school,” says Jimmy James, a quiet young man whose life changed by joining Houston Police Department’s Youth Police Advisory Council (YPAC).

“When I met Jimmy, he couldn’t open his mouth. Now he won’t shut it!” jokes his mentor Rhonda Collins Byrd.

Recognizing that teens are overlooked, the chief of police convened YPAC where participants conduct service projects, facilitate Teen Court, and train peers and adults on dating violence and suicide prevention. The program has increased understanding and dialogue between HPD and area youth. Read more

TCFV Honors Four Mothers who Empower Women

For Immediate Release

MEDIA CONTACT: ANGELA HALE, 512.289.2995, angela@redmediagroup.com


Austin, Texas – May 7, 2016–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 domestic violence to occur. These extraordinary women are also exceptional mothers. Thank you for making the world a better place.

This Mother’s Day TCFV recognizes:

  • Jennifer King, Region 3 Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice
  • Maricarmen Garza, Victim Rights Group Coordinator & Attorney, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
  • State Senator Jane Nelson
  • Marta Pelaez, CEO, Family Violence Prevention Services

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2016 Young Hearts Matter Social Media Winners


Week 1:

@loveisbtx, a collaboration between Boerne ISD and Kendall County Women’s Shelter, formed a team of young people who promoted healthy relationships during TDVAPM with their “Love Is” Campaign.


Week 2:

Aleleone Vargas, from Columbus Jr. High School – Riverside Campus, participated in the Family Crisis Center #ourheartsmatter Photo Booth submitted by @FCCPrevention  


Week 3:

Samantha Martinez & the Juarez Lincoln High School Law Enforcement Club collaborated with the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force to host the Young Hearts Matter 2K walk & pep rally.  



Week 4:

Women’s Shelter of South Texas traveled to area schools like Gregory-Portland High School to snap photos and talk about healthy relationships with their #WSSTX campaign.



2016 Young Hearts Matter Awards

2016 Young Hearts Matter Award Winners


Activist of the Year

Lizzie2Lizi Xiong, Bellaire High School, Houston, TX

This award recognizes a young person who has been a driving force for social change among their peers and has done significant work to promote awareness and prevention of dating abuse in their community or school.

16 year old Lizi Xiong founded the Young Women United USA (YWUU), an international non-profit with over 400 members in 6 countries. The mission, to break down cultural barriers, protect human rights, provide empowerment tools for women, and inform the public about world affairs. Though the organization started as a local area organization, Lizi decided to expand the organization to include international chapters after networking and participating in a series of national youth leadership trainings.

Lizi successfully produced one of the winning videos in the TCFV #ManUp video contest held during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and continued her efforts to raise awareness about domestic violence on social media with the YWUU #AgressionIsNotAffection project. The project moved from social media to film when Lizi and her peers produced a 16
minute documentary about their experiences and knowledge about teen dating violence. Lizi has been described as an empathetic and respectful leader who is changing the world.

Advocate of the Year

Pillich2Coach Jennifer Pillich, Girls Athletic Coordinator, Manor ISD, Manor, TX

This award recognizes an adult ally who partners with young people, is a leader for violence prevention in their community, and has made prevention programming more accessible as a result of their efforts.

Coach Jennifer Pillich was nominated for her passion and leadership to empower young people, particularly girls, in Manor, TX. She is driven by the cause to provide young girls with a foundation for successful relationships and futures, using her position as a coach to lead a movement in Manor ISD. Coach Pillich speaks and acts from the heart, conveying her love and respect for every young person in her care.

In September 2015, Coach Pillich was one of eleven local coaches and advocates attending A Call to Men’s National Conference entitled, “Sports Culture: Advancing its role in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault.” Energized and inspired, she immediately created a 2-part Empowerment Workshop for over 85 female athletes. Using the No More campaign as a starting point, Coach Pillich designed T-Shirts, activities, and a Twitter hashtag to share her enthusiasm throughout MISD and beyond – and this is just the beginning! Coach Pillich served as a panelist who presented to the City of Austin/Travis County Family Violence Task Force in 2015 and plans to continue her efforts to empower female athletes and promote healthy relationships amongst young people.

Texas Partner for Change

Coaches2D.W. Rutledge and the Texas High School Coaches Association

This award recognizes a community leader whose partnerships and efforts have given voice to violence prevention and have inspired systemic or community wide change across the state of Texas. 

The Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA) takes an active role in developing Texas coaches to be key, positive role models in the lives of student athletes and pivotal actors in promoting better lives for those they coach.  As the Executive Director of the THSCA, D.W. Rutledge epitomizes this role. Seen as one of the most successful high school coaches in Texas football history, his accolades do not end there.  Showing his commitment to impacting positive change, he co-authored a book, Coaching to Change Lives that promotes the role of athletic programs in developing values in the young people they serve.  Additionally, he has been an active supporter of educating coaches on Coaching Boys into Men, a curriculum designed to help prevent dating violence among young athletes.

For several years the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) has prioritized supporting Texas coaches in working to end domestic violence and promoting healthy relationships among their athletes. D.W. Rutledge and The Texas Coaches Association continues to be a key partner in this work by supporting the presence of the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) at the Annual Texas Coaches Leadership Summit, which promotes “Coaching Beyond the Game” as well as the Annual THSCA Convention and Coaching School, which draws an attendance of over 12,000 people including coaches and athletic directors from across the state of Texas.  

As a coach, D.W. Rutledge has touched the lives of so many athletes and as the head of the THSCA, he touches the lives of countless others. For his relentless commitment to young hearts in Texas, the Texas Council on Family Violence names D.W. Rutledge as this year’s Young Hearts Matter Texas Partner for Change. 

Activist of the Year Nominees

Recognizing a young person who has been a driving force for social change among their peers and has done significant work to promote awareness and prevention of dating abuse in their community or school.


Hibba Siddiqi, Houston
HPD Youth Policy Advisory Council


Sam Martinez, La Joya
Rio Grande Valley VOC Program,
Juarez Lincoln High School Law Club


Shasparay Lighteard,
Round Rock
Community activist & poet


Lizi Xiong, Houston
Young Women United – USA


Alejandra Saenz, Del Valle
Changing Lives Youth Theatre Ensemble


Jimmy James, Houston
Love is Respect Board Member,
HPD Youth Policy Advisory Council


Caroline McKenzie, Austin
Texas Advocacy Project Teen Ambassador 


 Advocate of the Year Nominees

Recognizing an adult ally who partners with young people, is a leader for violence prevention in their community, and has made prevention programming more accessible as a result of their efforts.


Nathan Richardson, Denton
Denton County Friends of the Family


Marilyn Gambrell, Houston
No More Victims, Inc.


Superintendent Juan Cabrera,
El Paso Independent School District


Hillarye Hightower, Denton
Denton County Friends of the Family


Florence Briceno, Austin
Travis County Sheriff’s Office


Angie Stafford, Victoria
Midcoast Family Services


Tonya Bradley, Houston
Ronald McDonald House


Jennifer Pillich, Manor
Girls Athletic Coordinator,
Manor ISD

Texas Partner for Change Nominees

Recognizing a community leader whose partnerships and efforts have given voice to violence prevention and have inspired systemic or community wide change across the state of Texas.

2016 Young Hearts Matter Award Nominees

These awards recognize individuals who inspire and lead their communities to promote healthy relationships for young hearts in Texas. Recipients will be honored in February 2016 and will receive a $200 honorarium for the Activist of the Year and Advocate of the Year award categories.

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2016 Young Hearts Matter Award Nominations

Texas Council on Family Violence is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Young Hearts Matter awards. These awards recognize individuals who inspire and lead their communities to promote healthy relationships for young hearts in Texas. Recipients will be honored in February 2016 and will receive a $200 honorarium for the Activist of the Year and Advocate of the Year award categories.

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