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Domestic violence scars families forever; women’s shelter offers hope
Southwest Family Life Centers, a short-term emergency housing and safe shelter for those fleeing domestic violence, is reaching out to residents in Frio County who have fallen victim to an abusive partner.
Established in 1984, the shelter offers a safe place to stay for a maximum of 14 days for those who have been subjected to domestic violence, bullying and teen dating violence. However, staff say depending on the situation, victims have been allowed to stay longer if they need more time.
Personnel at the shelter feel “domestic violence is everyone’s business” and encourage anyone who has witnessed abuse to report it to the local authorities.
“If you have friends or family members who are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, the most important thing you can do is be supportive and listen to them,” a spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity. “Understand that leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship is never easy.”
The safe haven offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, peer counseling, legal advocacy, assistance in obtaining protective orders, assistance with Texas crime victims’ compensation claims, temporary emergency domestic violence shelter, information and referral on community resources, safety planning, crisis intervention and community education.
“If your partner embarrasses you with name calling, scares you, controls what you do, where you go or who you see, demands you stop talking to family and friends, makes all the decisions, takes your money and important documentation, places blame on you for their actions, intimidates you with weapons, is physically abusive or forces you to drop charges, call the hotline, (830) 426-5131,” the spokeswoman said.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence [NCADV], about 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States, which equates to an estimated ten million per year.
“Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make,” shelter staff said.
Southwest Family Life Center staff say victims struggle after filing the initial charges against their abusers as they are often coerced into dropping charges. Abusers often beg for forgiveness and promise to change their behavior, however, within a short time the abuse returns and often escalates.
Victims of abuse may spend years living in fear for their lives, according to counselors.
About one in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence, partner stalking with injury or post-traumatic stress from the abuse, according to the NCADV.
NCADV has Texas ranked 35th in the nation, indicating that 35 percent of the population experiences domestic violence. Oklahoma ranks number one with nearly 50 percent of the state’s population facing domestic violence.
Locally, staff at the shelter see victims who are scared to face their abusers because the effects of domestic violence are exacerbated by family connections with people in positions of authority, and the stigma of abuse, among other challenges.
“They are terrified,” the spokeswoman said. “But our local county attorney is amazing and works with the victims to get those protective orders.”
The spokeswoman says that although there are a lot of obstacles when it comes to leaving an abusive relationship, there is also a lot of help. The victims just need to want the help.
“We see so many things, for instance there are several victims who all have protective orders against the same guy,” she says. “We will just pick them up from the emergency room and take them to a shelter and they stay gone.”
Staff encourage victims to learn identifying information about their significant other, such as their birthdays, addresses, and work place; and be able to provide the pertinent information for protective orders.
Over the years, the shelter has helped hundreds of victims who have made the decision to leave abusive relationships and welcomes donations, as many of the battered women leave without ‘just the clothes on their backs.’
The shelter serves Frio, Medina and Uvalde counties and accepts monetary and clothing donations, as many victims start lives elsewhere and leave their abusive situations with the bare minimum.