SAN ANTONIO - – Just 10 minutes of your time could end up saving lives, and you can remain anonymous.
For the first time ever, there’s a city- and county-wide public survey about domestic violence.
The project could lead to crucial funding and policy change, but there’s a problem: a lot of people aren’t responding. The goal is to get thousands of participants but since Dec. 15, only about 350 people have filled out the survey.
“The more people participate, we can identify ways that we can strengthen the services provided to the individuals and families experiencing domestic violence,” said domestic violence survivor and social worker Elizabeth Cruz.
Cruz experienced and witnessed abuse in her childhood and in her marriage.
“Just feeling a whole lot of shame. How did I let this happen? How did I get to this point?” Cruz said.
Advocates report that feeling is sadly common for people in San Antonio and in Bexar County where the cases per capita are the highest in the state.
Metro Health’s Violence Prevention Department determined these were the specific feelings, stories and experiences researchers needed to know about so the city and county can figure out how best to help families in crisis.
So for the first time ever, Metro Health commissioned a survey that anonymously but directly asks the public details about this difficult issue.
“All of our hope is that this influences policy,” said survey developer Lily Casura.
Casura does survey research at UTSA, where she graduated with a social work degree.
She also co-authored the Status of Women Report, which is what led her to realize the Bexar County area had a huge need for better domestic violence research.
“It was very hard to get data, it was hard to get accurate data. It kind of exposed there was a gap, something needed to happen,” she said. “Domestic violence is very, very under-reported, so even if we had data, it wouldn’t be descriptive enough.”
Casura spent hundreds of hours working with partners at UTSA to create the survey.
After test runs and approval, it was finally released to the public on Dec. 15.
“Some of the questions go into, things like, ‘In your childhood home did you experience this? Or did you see it happening to someone else? Have you felt threatened by them and needed to ask permission to do basic stuff like spend your own money or see your friends?’” Casura said.
Casura said though only hundreds of people have responded, the quality of the responses has been impressive and thorough.
Casura also said in the testing phase, she found that some people realized for the first time while taking the survey, they had, in fact, been in an abusive situation before. Throughout the survey, there are links to resources.
When asked if she feels comfortable taking the survey as a survivor, Cruz said, “Absolutely, and I think that’s what I really liked. The individuals that are experiencing it, they know what they need more than researchers.”
Cruz said it’s victim-blaming and stigma that keeps people quiet, and she wants to help change that.
“That secret. We know secrets hold a lot of power. But once we start talking about it, it loses its power,” Cruz said.
Once the survey results are collected the report will go to Metro Health, and the findings will be presented at the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence. UTSA will continue to work on data analysis.
Costs associated with the study are being covered by federal CARES Act funds, allowed to help with the domestic violence crises that have worsened nationwide during the pandemic.
COVID-19 is also to blame for the difficulty of survey outreach.
“Right now it’s only online. There is a link and a QR code. There would have been a broader reach to do in person, if COVID hadn’t been an issue,” Casura said.
Casura said she realizes for many people whose participation is important, there’s no access to the internet.
“There are plans to take a business card that has the survey link and the QR code on the front and resources on the back and distribute that at places like Haven for Hope, so people when they get a chance, can actually take care of this,” Casura said.
She also hopes community members will help facilitate the survey for their family or neighbors without internet access.
Casura said everyone 18 and older in San Antonio and Bexar County are encouraged to take the survey. Participants don’t have to have experienced domestic violence to take survey.
Just scan the QR code below, or click here on the survey link.