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TX Sen. Nelson and Rep. Brown Help Kick Off Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

"There was a time not too long ago when issues of family violence were relegated to the shadows - in society and at the state capitol," said Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville), as she helped the Texas Council on Family Violence's kick off its Campaign for Safe Families.

Nelson said in the past, domestic violence and abuse was under-reported, and even talking about it was "almost taboo." She noted that there was often talk about the "silent victims," and she pointed to boxes of letter from some of those victims that were on display at today's press conference. The letters contained "heartfelt messages," said Nelson, who said to the writers of the letters, "Your message has been received - loud and clear."

Nelson has filed two pieces of legislation this session that address family violence. She said her SB 55 is aimed at "protecting the youngest victims of dating violence," and it allows a judge to issue a protective order in abuse situations involving minors. Her SB 56 allows district attorneys to receive bail reduction notifications involving violent offenders.

"We have made enormous strides," said Nelson regarding increased awareness of domestic violence and its victims. She said now many victims are finally willing to step forward and talk about domestic violence and that has "helped us come out of those shadows."

Texas Council on Family Violence officials note that family violence programs provide safety and opportunity for one million victims of family violence and provide hope for their children.

Johnny Mae Harris was introduced as a domestic violence "survivor," who was in an abusive marriage. "Like many other women in my situation, I feared leaving my husband," she said, with her main fear being that she feared her children would become victims of abuse as well. She said she found help through a domestic violence organization that provided her with emergency shelter, legal access, counseling and transitional housing, "while I picked up the pieces of my life and put things back in order." She said those services allowed her to "get my life together."

She said the organization provided much more than just shelter. "It was more than just help," she said. "Domestic violence shelters and programs save the lives of women like me every day."

"Domestic violence is repeated over and over and over countless times throughout the state," said Rep. Fred Brown (R-College Station). He said it is time Texans pay attention to the needs to end domestic violence. "It is time to put an end to family violence. This is the time for us to band together and make sure it happens."

Nelson said the Crime Victims Abuse Fund is "losing its solvency" and was source of funds for domestic shelters. With state money still tight, Nelson said she wants to ensure that while the state is providing funds for public education and other important issues, that legislators are "very sure these silent victims are still heard." She said the message is that there are three women per week in Texas who die at the hands of a domestic abuser and many more are "living in fear day by day."