BEAUMONT, Texas – The Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) will direct more than $18 million in grant funding to Texas to support efforts to curb domestic violence throughout the state, announced U.S. Attorneys Stephen J. Cox, Erin Nealy Cox, Ryan K. Patrick, and John F. Bash.
As the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, reports indicate that many cities – including Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio – may be experiencing surges in domestic violence. Because of the virus, many domestic violence victims feel they’re safest inside their homes, but that may or may not be the case.
Research shows that intimate partner homicides are troublingly common, and often come with collateral fatalities. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in 6 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. Tragically, Texas accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s domestic violence homicides. Armed abusers are especially dangerous. Research shows that abusers with a gun in the home are five times more likely to kill their partners than abusers who don’t have access to a firearm.
Given these troubling statistics, in June 2019, Attorney General William P. Barr formed a Domestic Violence Working Group in order to encourage prosecution of armed domestic violence offenders. (Federal law bars domestic violence offenders – those subject to certain protective orders or convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or felonies – from possessing firearms.)
District across the nation, including all four districts in Texas, have prioritized their own initiatives designed to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. In the 18 months since the first federal domestic violence initiative kicked off in Dallas, federal prosecutors in Texas have charged dozens of armed abusers with gun crimes.
However, the federal government is just one in a host of stakeholders determined to end the scourge of domestic violence – and only a portion of domestic violence cases fall within federal jurisdiction. The OVW grants announced today will provide resources to local prosecutors, victim service providers, healthcare professionals, training organizations, and academic researchers, including several with national scope.
“Having worked closely with the Office on Violence Against Women over the past few years, I know how critical OVW’s funding for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services is in fighting violence against women,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. “We are particularly glad to see this assistance in Texas, as it will undoubtedly improve criminal justice and collaboration in responding to domestic and sexual violence—and hopefully encourage victims to come forward to take advantage of these resources.”
“Putting an end to domestic violence requires effort from everyone in a community and OVW is proud to support the work being done in Texas,” said OVW Principal Deputy Director Laura L. Rogers. “Our funding supports law enforcement, prosecutors and brings people together to work for a common cause. These strong partnerships lead to creative solutions to prevent violence.”
“The feds are committed to prosecuting armed abusers, but we don’t have jurisdiction in every domestic violence case, and we know we’re only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to ending the scourge domestic violence. Local prosecutors, police departments, and nonprofits do a lot of the heavy lifting,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, who chairs the Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Working Group.
Among the $18 million in awards that will be issued to organizations and government agencies in Texas are:
· More than $11.8 million in formula funds to the state to support law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services providers, and courts in working collaboratively to respond to domestic and sexual violence.
· $1.76 million to cities and counties across Texas to improve the criminal justice response to domestic and sexual violence: $1,000,000 to the City of Austin, $400,000 to Webb County, and $355,573 to Bastrop County.
· $2.85 million to domestic violence organizations to provide legal service to victims: $600,000 to SafeHaven of Tarrant County, $600,000 to the Women’s Center of Tarrant County, $600,000 to the Houston Area Women’s Center, $650,000 to the SAFE Alliance in Austin, and $404,486 to the Bastrop County Women’s Shelter.
· $1.54 million to advocacy groups to help underserved populations, including disabled victims and minority victims of domestic violence: $588,297 to Saheli, Inc., $500,000 to Brownsville Friendship of Women, Inc., $450,000 to the SAFE Alliance in Austin.
· More than half a million to domestic violence shelters to provide transitional housing and therapy services: $515,000 to SafeHaven of Tarrant County.
· $152,345 to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault plus $91,274 to the Texas Council on Family Violence, two statewide organizations working to address violence against women.
New projects to provide critical training and technical assistance throughout the country include:
· The $5 million new National Violence Against Women Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium, a project with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, in Florida, that will deliver training on investigating and responding to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
· $675,000 to continue the work of the San Diego-based Alliance for HOPE’s Training Institute for Strangulation Prevention, which provides education on investigating and prosecuting nonfatal strangulation in domestic violence cases.
· $400,000 to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, headquartered in Maryland, to develop a national protocol to guide medical-forensic care for domestic violence victims who seek treatment for their injuries.
For more information on the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, visit: https://www.justice.gov/ovw.