Nov 11, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Council of Family Violence (TCFV) has released its 2019 Texas State Plan, titled Creating a Safer Texas: Access to Safety, Justice & Opportunity, aimed at preventing intimate partner and family violence. Laurie Cook Heffron, an assistant professor of Social Work at St. Edward’s University, contributed to the plan along with other Texas researchers and advocates.

After discovering national research that indicates 75-90 percent of family violence survivors do not seek family violence services, TCFV initiated a multi-year research project to assess the availability of family violence services in every Texas county and highlight how communities can better support survivors and their families.

TCFV worked with several research partners to gather and analyze Texas-specific data: St. Edward’s University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas Medical Branch, Serrata and Hurtado. Fund partners at the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division and the Health and Human Services Commission Family Violence Program also contributed to the success of the State Plan.

The 2019 State Plan is the most interactive and informative plan to date detailing the availability and missing gaps of domestic violence services in Texas today. The plan also presents areas to focus on in the future, such as increasing collaboration between law enforcement and family violence agencies, supporting safe and affordable housing for survivors, destigmatizing reproductive health conversations and enhancing access to legal representation for survivors as they flee violence.

"This plan will help Texas policymakers, service providers, and advocates better meet the needs of a wide range of Texans experiencing intimate partner violence by providing community-based and survivor-informed recommendations for improving prevention and intervention efforts," Heffron said. "Importantly, it also recognizes the often unmet needs of both long-standing and newly-emerging immigrant communities in the state."

Some of the most significant findings in the plan include:

  • Ninety percent of survivors interviewed who had accessed some form of family violence services in Texas were homeless one or more times due to domestic violence.
  • More than 40 percent of Texas survivors have experienced reproductive coercion — nearly three times the national number.
  • More than 69 percent of Texas survivors met criteria for post-traumatic syndrome disorder.
  • Since engaging with family violence programs, more than 74 percent of participants experienced a decrease in violence in their lives because of enhanced safety.
  • Less than half of family violence agencies surveyed were part of a coordinated community response team, which more easily enables law enforcement and communities to intervene when violence occurs and support safety for the survivor and their family.
  • Seventy percent of family violence agencies provide some form of legal assistance, but only five percent have an attorney on staff to represent clients in civil matters and only two percent have an attorney to represent clients in criminal matters.
  • Fifty-one percent of survivors interviewed indicated their former abusive partner owned or had access to a gun or other weapons.

Primary data for the 2019 State Plan came from interviews, surveys and focus groups with more than 100 domestic violence advocates, 90 family violence program staff leaders, 200 survivors, 85 regional domestic violence hotlines and immigrant service providers from all over Texas.

“[Service providers] don’t have the funding available to offer anything more extensive than sometimes 30 days, sometimes three months. And if you’re talking about someone who has basically gone about destroying your entire life, it’s not something you can rebuild during that time. Usually that time is barely enough for you to get your bearings and your sense of self,” said a survivor in an interview.

The 2019 State Plan can be accessed at https://tcfv.org/Texas-state-plan. The site includes heat maps of domestic violence in Texas, as well as survivor and advocate testimonies, and the ability to create your own research project on domestic violence in Texas.