Rising domestic violence numbers show widespread change is needed

Monday's police-involved shooting after domestic dispute reflects rising trend

SAN ANTONIO – A man killed by San Antonio police Monday after a domestic dispute reflects a disturbing trend.

The Texas Department of Protective Services reports violent crimes rose 26 percent in San Antonio over the past two years -- with 16 percent of those reports being classified as domestic violence.

Police say Jose Casares was the man who held a 15-year-old at gunpoint Monday morning at his West Side home. Police knew him well. He was arrested just last month for family violence.

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During Monday's call, police said they told him to drop the weapon, but he didn't. When he raised the gun, an officer shot and killed him.

"It's disheartening. We do so much work in the community to plant the seed and educate and advocate not only with survivors but with perpetrators as well," said Linda Canizales with Family Violence Prevention Services.

Canizales said the abuse won't subside until the entire community gets involved.

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"Know the resources, know that there is help and that there is hope. Create a safety plan. Be ready to listen in a nonjudgmental way, because in the U.S. one in four women will experience domestic violence and in Texas we’re one in three," she said.

Abuse survivor and author Gwendolen Wilder is one of those statistics.

"After going through what was initially verbal abuse, it kind of escalated to physical abuse. It was very subtle. It didn’t happen like one day he just woke up and hit me. He’d start with twisting my arm or maybe pushing me or hitting me, that sort of thing," she said.

One day, she decided to leave him.

"He did not like that. We got into this argument and that ended with him choking me in my kitchen," she said. 

Wilder remembers finding the bravery to ask for help.

"I went to a friend of mine and told her about what was happening. And her response to me was, 'What did you do?'" she said. "It made me feel like it really was my fault. I mean, he'd been saying it and then she kind of said it. That's part of why I didn't leave sooner."

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It's a big reason why when she finally got out of the relationship years later, she wrote this book, “It's Okay to Tell My Story.” The book not only speaks to survivors and victims, but also reaches out to friends, family and coworkers. She doesn’t blame the people who don’t know the right answers, but says it’s a wake-up call for our community and our nation. 

The violence won’t stop until we understand it, recognize it, and know how to help someone handle it.

"A lot of the reasons people don’t know is because they were never taught. I can say that in my own personal experience. I didn’t have the education growing up saying this is what domestic violence looks like," Wilder said. "Until I went through this process I didn't know."

So the book is to educate everyone on what to look for, and how to react when you're faced with either abuse or someone who needs help escaping abuse.

"For example there's the do's and don'ts check list. Don’t question. When something is happening, say I will try my best to get you somewhere where you can get some help. Do you feel safe right now? Can I come get you? Can you get out of the house? These are the things you need to say to the victim. Don't question what's happening to them at that moment," Wilder explains. "Even if you don’t think it’s domestic violence, you just think that person is doing something to them, call 911 or tell them to go to the shelter because if you can’t handle the truth emotionally and be there mentally for that person, you’re going to make it worse for them."

She tells survivors to trust the system built for them. She admits she called police several times on her abuser but said he always manipulated her into not filing charges. {C}

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"When I hear people say the police don't do anything and they can't help, I say no that's not it. You've got to tell them everything and you've got to be up front and honest with everything. This is what he did and this is how he did it. I think if I would have done that initially, it wouldn’t have prolonged for such a long period of time and they wouldn’t have had to keep coming back and back," she said.

Her book lays out the different types of abuse and offers detailed safety plans.

"Action plans on how to leave, because I didn’t know how to leave in the beginning. That’s why I stayed. So I put in actual verbiage you can use with the abuser and examples of what I did towards the end," she said. "I tell people, if you need to go, just go. Don’t go try to grab your Gucci purse. You can go back and get that stuff later. We have amazing police and sheriff’s deputies that will go back for you or with you and get that. But if you do have time, I tell them what kind of documents to grab, like their passport, deeds to the house, insurance papers, things of that sort."

Wilder also believes in the importance of talking to children about abuse and explaining how relationships should and shouldn't look, in order to stop the cycle of violence.

"I really took time to create chapters so people can learn how to talk to their children because I was like, How do I talk to my child and tell him this is happening because I feel like a failure?" she said.

She even writes lists of the shelters and attorneys she used, giving every single person the knowledge they need to help cut down domestic violence numbers.

When Wilder's book came out in March, she donated $20,000 to local shelters. Anyone who buys it from her website will get access to a whole extra list of resources and her book club. That can put people in direct connection with shelters and attorneys that can offer advice or help.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.