‘We are there because we save lives’: Battered Women and Children’s Shelter sees increase in need

Capacity at the shelter is increasing but nowhere near filled

SAN ANTONIO – Domestic violence in Bexar County is on the rise, which has left families living in fear.

According to city and county officials, since the onset of the pandemic, the number of cases have exceeded those of 2019.

However, the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter is rising to meet the demand. CEO Marta Pelaez said victims of domestic violence are plagued with questions everyday.

“When the home is the place that is the most hellish in your life, where do you go?” she said.

Pelaez describes the shelter as a haven. She said there has been a startling increase in domestic violence and deaths.

“The disrespect towards life in general is something that just strikes me,” Pelaez said.

Pelaez believes COVID-19 has had a direct correlation to the recent spike. Pelaez said phone calls had stopped when Stay at Home orders went into place. However, that quickly changed when orders were lifted.

Pelaez said that is because the majority of victims were trapped at home with their perpetrator.

“That strategy to keep us all safe had a completely different impact and effect on the victims of domestic violence.”

Prior to COVID-19, the shelter had seen a maximum of 199 residents, but Pelaez said they could reach that number again.

She said the shelter has never reached capacity and doors will always be open and help will always be there.

“We are there because we save lives,” she said.

She believes the COVID-19 pandemic will some day come to an end, but is not sure if there will be a resolution for domestic violence.

Pelaez said children make up the majority of victims in domestic violence cases. She said they also have a higher chance of experiencing emotional and psychological traumas later in life.

She said what happens in the home bares an impact on the community.

RELATED: Domestic Violence Resources

About the Authors:

Steven Cavazos is a traffic anchor and general assignments reporter on weekday mornings at KSAT 12. He is also part of the Solutionaries team. He has deep South Texas roots: born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, graduated from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and worked in Harlingen and Corpus Christi before coming to KSAT 12 in 2019.