SAN ANTONIO – In 2020, domestic violence claimed the lives of 228 Texans with 17 of those victims from Bexar County. They serve as a grim reminder of how prevalent abuse is in the community.
In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, city leaders remembered victims on the steps of City Hall Monday morning.
“Bexar County is one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, the lives lost in Bexar County to domestic violence in 2020 represent a 31% increase from 2019.
Domestic violence, however, isn’t just about physical abuse. It includes any behavior with the purpose to gain control over a partner and city officials say it’s silently happening across all our neighborhoods.
“If you feel unsafe in your relationship, even if no one has physically laid their hands on you, it’s not OK,” Jenny Hixon said. Hixon is a Public Health Administrator for the city’s Violence Prevention Program. “You deserve safety in your home.”
Many times, victims decide to stay with their abuser due to lack of resources and unfortunately, the stress of the pandemic has only made matters worse.
“We know that when communities are under stress, when people are losing jobs, when they don’t have that social support that they normally have, that increases violence,” Hixon said. “It definitely increases domestic violence. So, we’re now sort of seeing the impacts of the pandemic and the numbers that we’re getting on what happened during 2020.”
“The frustrating part is that as much effort as the city, county leaders and the police department and Metro Health (have) put into this, it seems that the numbers are not decreasing, and I don’t know why,” SAPD Chief William McManus said. “One of the domestic violence advocate groups stated some time ago that it would take a generation to move past this cycle, and I’m inclined to agree with her…. but I will tell you that the increase that we’re seeing is certainly not for lack of trying to address this issue.”
SAPD’s detectives assigned to the Special Victims Unit are trained to deal with family violence victims. According to McManus, the department has expanded its focus to partner with Metro Health Crisis Team.
“(We) provide assistance prior to a domestic violence incident and then in the aftermath, providing services for that victim to keep them out of the danger zone,” McManus said.
The goal is to keep victims safe from physical harm and prevent future homicides.
COVID-19 relief funds have also allowed for the city to expand its efforts to create a safe, loving and healthy future for victims and witnesses of domestic violence.
“We’ve actually added a lot of case management,” Hixon said. “We work very closely with SAPD to make sure that every one of those calls for help results in a contact with an advocate, whether it’s within the city of San Antonio or with some of our partner agencies.”
The goal of the city and county partnerships is to identify the roots of domestic violence and prevent generational impacts.
“Through our Metro Health Strategic Plan, we’ve identified family violence and domestic violence as being one pillar of the approach, but also adverse childhood experiences, which almost always invariably involve some kind of family trauma,” Nirenberg said. “So, we are focused on making sure that we are treating children who are indirectly victims of domestic violence and working with them to address traumas before they become expand expanded across a lifetime.”
For victims who plan to leave their abusive relations, officials encourage for SAPD and Metro Health’s Crisis Team to be alerted to create a path to safety.
To learn more about the signs of domestic violence, the city will host a free symposium Thursday and Friday.
The 2nd Annual Domestic Violence Symposium will feature 17 free online sessions.
To register for the symposium, click here.
Click here for more resources and stories about domestic violence on KSAT.