When people think of domestic violence, many focus on the abuse and tend to blame the victim for staying in a toxic relationship.
Many times domestic violence is overlooked, excused or denied. However, during the month of October communities do their part to raise awareness on this major issue by wearing purple and holding vigils for survivors.
Domestic violence is not a new epidemic and does not discriminate by race, age or socioeconomic status. It results in physical injury, psychological trauma and can lead to death. Domestic violence is about power and control over another person in an intimate relationship; the violence is usually always physical but it can also be sexual and emotional.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injuries to women
Statistics show that one in every four women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence. Men, however, are less likely to report the abuse.
According to Jim Wells County Assistant District Attorney Yvonne Toureilles, men do not report the abuse because they feel ashamed, especially if they were taught to respect women.
In the Fiscal Year 2015, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services completed 467 abuse cases in Duval, Jim Wells and Nueces County, according to John Lennan, media specialist.
Why victims stay
But what happens before, during and after the case is being investigated is just as vital to the victim as getting away from the abuse.
According to Ida Trejo, Center of Learning Organization Education (CLOE) Certification Trainer, law enforcement and social workers need to understand why victims don't leave the relationship to better help the victim and all involved.
For example, the victim may not have an income and be financially dependent on her abuser, what will happen to the children if she leaves, the victim is use to the abuse, or no support from family or law enforcement.
“But only she will know when it's best to leave,” Trejo said. “Death is always a cost of staying and a cost of leaving. The most dangerous part is when she decides to leave.”
Looking for signs
As fights escalate, children, victims and even neighbors attempt to help and call police in hopes the violence will stop. Alice Police Chief Rex Ramon said one of the most dangerous calls officers respond to are domestic violence calls. Many times the victims or the abusers tend to turn on officers, which can lead to a public servant getting assaulted and or threatened.
Many times officers arrive at the scene after the assault has occurred and the abuser is no longer on the scene. While officers collect statements and pictures from victims and witnesses, and get the victim medical attention, some victims change their mind in fear of retaliation.
“Victims try to down play the assault the following day and many victims try to recant their stories,” Lt. Jason Childers stated. “What people don't understand is that even if they recant their story we, as officers, still have to make a report to the DA's office.”
The District Attorney's Office and Alice Police Department officers have partnered to train and gain knowledge to help victims of domestic abuse.
In the front lines, Childers has received special training by the DA's office to look for other signs of abuse. Childers passed down his newly obtained information to patrol officers so they can identify those points such as Ptosis or droopy eye, a common physical sign of strangulation.
“Strangulation is one-step away from murder,” Toureilles stated.
Body cameras and court
The implementation of body cameras has been essential to the police department, not just for officer safety, but also to record the victim's story immediately following the domestic violence incident.
“The body cams get the victim's raw emotions,” Childers stated. “They're covered in blood...these videos get sent to the DA's office to be used in court.”
Once law enforcement has collected and closed their files, the domestic violence case is in the hands of the District Attorney's office.
According to Toureilles, victims don't always want to go to trial, they don't want to put their husband in jail because she's financially dependent on him.
“The goal many times is not to leave the relationship,” said Brian Keith Permenter, counselor with the Women's Shelter of South Texas. “They just want the abuse to stop.”
In July 2016, victims and abusers did not have access to preventative programs. Now, with Toureilles and JWC District Attorney Carlos Garcia, the victims in JWC have options.
“Justice can mean many things, from counseling to probation, to incarceration,” Toureilles said. “It's the best tool out there to stop the cycle of violence.”
For the first time in JWC, the Battery Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) is implemented - a 24-week course where the abuser gets weekly two-hour counseling.
“It's our goal to hold people accountable,” Kellie Addison, chief community relations officer for the Women's Shelter of South Texas said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it takes seven generations before the cycle is stopped.
During the course, the abuser gets the tools they need to control their anger, to understand the cycle of abuse, and to face the reality of how domestic violence affects their children now and in the future.
Childers recalls a specific case in particular where a suspect, who was a repeated offender, took part in the BIPP program. Officers have yet to return to the home and the couple is still together.