October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in four women and one seven in men experience domestic violence in this country. Unfortunately, reports of family violence are on the rise in Houston. The Houston Police Department reported that in 2018, domestic violence crimes had increased by eight percent over previous years. In 2017, 27,717 domestic violence calls were received; in 2018, there were 31,079.
The number of victims killed by their intimate partners increased in 2018, too. In 2017, 43 people lost their lives to family violence; last year the number jumped to 58. This phenomenon is true across the country. After almost four decades of decline, homicide among romantic partners is up, driven by gun violence. In fact, an abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of intimate partner femicide by 400%.
Recent research shows that since 2010, gun-related murders of intimate partners have increased by 26 percent ― a significant rise ― while those involving other weapons like knives have continued to decline. Most of the increase in gun deaths has occurred since 2014. All in all, intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
AVDA’s (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) mission is to end family abuse, and every day AVDA’s staff attorneys advocate for the rights of victims of domestic violence in the family law courts of Harris and Fort Bend counties. Last year AVDA served more than 4,000 adult and child victims of domestic violence and provided intervention counseling to 901 abusers through its Battering Intervention and Prevention Program. AVDA also works to end domestic violence by teaching young people about healthy relationships and that violence never equals strength.
AVDA has planned several events during October to bring attention to the public health crisis of domestic violence, below. Throughout the month, AVDA’s friends and supporters are encouraged to post photos on social media of billboards across the area promoting AVDA’s free legal representation for victims of domestic abuse. Made possible by Clear Channel Outdoor and Houston Young Lawyers Foundation, the five freeway billboards and 15 surface street poster boards (in English and Spanish) can be seen across Harris County. The billboard campaign, which also features messages on 16 digital billboards in in Galveston, Fort Bend and Harris counties, will continue through the end of the year.
AVDA’s Events during National Domestic Awareness Month:
October, 3-5 p.m.: Interfaith Community Dialogues on Domestic Violence Intervention
Presented by the Interfaith Advisory Council, this free seminar for faith leaders at Crime Stoppers, 3001 Main Street, will prepare them as first responders to family violence within their congregations. This interactive seminar will cover the signs of abuse and how to respond to victims of domestic violence. Local domestic violence advocates will be on hand to answer questions and provide the tools necessary to transform lives.
October 7, 6 p.m.: An Evening of Remembrance, Caring and Hope, co-sponsored by AVDA, Daya, Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, and Crime Stoppers of Houston
Join Mayor Turner for this multi-faith vigil in reverent memory of domestic violence victims and in celebration of survivors at Crime Stoppers, 3001 Main Street. In recognition of Houston’s religious diversity, tolerance, and acceptance, faith leaders from most of Houston’s major religions (the Baha’i Faith, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism) are taking part. They will read the names of those who lost their lives to domestic violence in 2019.
October 16, 6:30 p.m.: AVDA’s Home Safe Home Gala
AVDA hosts its 14th annual gala fundraiser at The Revaire, 7122 Old Katy Road. Chaired by Ben and Meredith Marshall, the 2019 Home Safe Home Gala will feature some of Houston’s top chefs and their culinary creations expertly paired with wines selected by the event sommelier team, plus an auction.
During the event, the Joseph D. Jamail Award for Justice will be presented to Judge Ruby Kless Sondock. Karen and Buster Freedman will receive AVDA’s Heart of Houston Award for their “exemplary service to Houston and its citizens through philanthropy and volunteerism.”
October 16: Illumination of City Structures in Purple
Purple, the color for domestic violence awareness, will illuminate a number of city structures, including Houston City Hall and the three Montrose-area bridges spanning U.S. Highway 59.