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Texas domestic violence survivor advocates push for $88 million to boost resources

Bella J. Rockman, a neuropsychotherapist and survivor of domestic violence, spoke to reporters at a Texas Council on Family Violence press conference at the state capitol.
Texas House of Representatives
Bella J. Rockman, a neuropsychotherapist and survivor of domestic violence, spoke to reporters at a Texas Council on Family Violence press conference at the state capitol March 23, 2023.

The Texas Council on Family Violence says funding from state lawmakers would expand resources for domestic violence survivors.

Advocates for domestic violence survivors want state lawmakers to spend nearly $88 million to help fund resources they say would better serve survivors and their families.

The Texas Council on Family Violence, a nonprofit support group, laid out a proposed funding plan that would include $78.7 million for basic family violence services like child care and therapy. Another $6.3 million would help the council provide more housing and legal services, while $3 million would go toward violence prevention and community education.

According to TCFV, 204 Texans died at the hands of intimate partners in 2021. That same year, 39% of domestic violence survivors were denied access to shelters due to a lack of space.

State Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, sponsored the event, and said she hoped support from fellow lawmakers would change those numbers.

“These funds support survivors and their children," Rose said. "It funds the emergency shelters, the staff, the services that improve the lives of everyday Texans and survivors."

Rose joined TCFV at the state capitol Thursday, where the group made its case along alongside lawmakers and domestic violence survivors. As part of TCFV's Purple Postcard Campaign, the event featured postcard signed by constituents in favor of the council's request for state funding.

Rose also co-authored House Bill 1796, which would require family violence centers to clearly provide services that are effective for victims, such as 24-hour shelters and crisis hotlines, and demonstrate “culturally relevant and trauma-informed” advocacy efforts.

The council's funding request also saw support from state Rep. Josey Garcia, D-San Antonio. She's filed bills like HB 482, which would prohibit those convicted of certain family violence demeanors from owning firearms.

Garcia revealed she's also a domestic violence and child sexual trauma survivor.

“I ask that today, we put domestic violence in the forefront because everyone of us are experiencing it,” she said. “Whether it’s with ourselves or somebody that we love, or somebody that we know, or somebody that we care about.”

In 2021, TCFV reported their members advocated for lawmakers to designate $13 million in funding to improve essential services like mental health and housing aid. The 87th Legislature also passed a handful of bills targeted at improving resources for domestic violence survivors, such as Senate Bill 798, which provides fee waivers for survivors in the renewal of driver's licenses and other essential documents.

Bella J. Rockman, a neuropsychotherapist based in Round Rock, also shared her experience with domestic violence — including a choking incident where she nearly died. She said organizations like TCFV were what helped her restart her life after leaving her abusive relationship.

"We need reforms so that offenders can receive both accountability and hopefully some form of rehabilitation," she said. "We need education so that coaches, teachers, colleagues, coworkers, neighbors, friends and family can better understand how to support and identify trauma and abuse when it's occurring in our neighborhoods, in our homes, right under our noses."

Gloria Aguilera Terry, TCFV's chief executive officer, said Texas lawmakers should prioritize money for domestic violence services this session, because it has far-reaching benefits.

“Before we talk about property tax relief, we have to acknowledge that those very homes are not safe for people,” she said. “When we talk about school vouchers in school and education, we can’t talk about that without knowing and acknowledging that a hurt, scared child cannot thrive.”

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.