SAN ANTONIO – When it comes to domestic violence, there is a very specific and powerful red flag.
"An emotional component that should never be a part of any relationship is fear. If you are afraid of that person you are being abused," said Marta Pelaez, CEO of the Battered Women and Children's Shelter.
Pelaez said fear is a piece of every abusive relationship, no matter how old the victims are.
Domestic abuse among seniors has spiked in San Antonio, but it is an issue that is not often discussed. An overnight murder, however, has sparked the conversation.
Bexar County Sheriff's Office investigators said around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, a 71-year-old man shot and killed his 62-year-old wife outside their home on Luckey Path near Highway 90 in far west Bexar County.
The man was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder.
"This fatality last night -- very very very sad," Pelaez said.
It's even more so because Pelaez said it represents a tragic trend.
"In the past five years, we have experienced an increase of 12% in the number of seniors that we see at our shelter," she said.
When asked whether that statistic was surprising, she said, "It is surprising in some aspects because you just do not expect it."
Few details have been released about the early morning murder. Pelaez said when it comes to that age group, however, similar cases that end in extreme violence have shown abuse to be prevalent for years, sometimes decades.
There is even a new wing at the Battered Women and Children's Shelter in San Antonio for "special populations," meaning families with disabilities or seniors. It's a smaller, quieter section of the shelter with separate laundry and dining rooms.
Pelaez said the longer a victim endures abuse, the less likely it is that person will find the power or strength to report it.
"Often a son, a daughter just cannot take it anymore and comes and speaks on behalf of the mother," she said.
She said seniors in the shelter, however, most commonly report their adult son as the abuser, showing that violence in a home can come from anyone. And anyone can report it.
"Please please give us a call. Tell someone. Go to the police. You cannot change that abuser," Pelaez said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence there is a long list or resources at www.ksat.com/domesticviolence.
The shelter is run by Family Violence Prevention Services, which can be reached at 210-733-8810.