Austin Council: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Written by Antwon R. Martin

With last night’s proclamation that October be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Austin City Council joined advocates, police, and community members in recognizing the impact domestic violence has on society.

On the heels of last week’s DVAM proclamation at the Travis County Commissioner’s Court regular meeting, District 2 Council Member Dalia Garza started Wednesday’s decree.

“In 2015, there were five domestic violence homicides in Austin,” Garza said. “In 2015, SafePlace served 5,296 survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence.”

“The problem of domestic violence affects all of Austin’s citizens, regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, and economic status,” Garza said. “One in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.”

“Safe, healthy relationships are the foundation of our community, it is our goal and our right to be safe inside our own homes.” — District 2 Council Member Dalia Garza

Emily LeBlanc is the senior director of community advocacy for The SAFE Alliance. She said the community should be concerned not only because we have to cover the cost of domestic violence for time lost when survivors miss work and accrue medical bills, but also because DV perpetrators pose a threat to public safety.

“Perpetrators of domestic violence are more likely to kill police officers,” LeBlanc said. “They’re more likely to commit mass murders. It’s something for us all to think about, to raise awareness about, and continue to fight against so all of our families can be safe.”

Domestic violence and public safety

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 206 Texas law officers were assaulted in 2015 while responding to family violence incidents. During the same period, 4,310 officers were assaulted, meaning 4.8 percent of officers assaulted could be prevented if we can eliminate DV.

On top of that, an analysis of mass shootings between 2009 and 2015 found 57 percent of cases involved a shooter killing their current or former spouse or intimate partner or other family member.

Following LeBlanc’s comments, Austin Police Department Victim Services Supervisor Lupita Luhon told council and community members that no intimate partner family violence homicides have occurred at this point in 2016.

Sgt. De Los San Santos, who works with APD’s DV unit, said the department is proud that Austin has one of the most proactive police units in Texas when it comes to DV. Compared to year-to-date numbers through May, the department saw a 34 percent reduction in DV-related aggravated assaults this year compared to 2015

“I think that’s a huge achievement,” De Los Santos said. “I think it’s because of the awareness the council gives us at these sorts of things and also all of our efforts combined. We’re going to continue to try to do that. Thank you for ya’ll’s support.”

Chair of the Austin County Family Violence Task Force Kirsha Haverlah accepted the proclamation.