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Domestic Violence In Tarrant County Reaches Record Level During Pandemic

A woman's profile is reflected on a dark window.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
A woman named Stacey spoke to KERA about how she faced a decision in late April to flee from abuse and violence, or stay home to avoid covid-19.

Intimate partner homicides had been declining in Tarrant County in the last four years, but 2020 is already the worst year on record.

SafeHaven of Tarrant County, a non-profit that focuses on domestic violence support and prevention, has published its first public Fatality Report.

Warning: This story discusses domestic violence. If you’re experiencing abuse or partner violence and need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat with an advocate on their website. SafeHaven of Tarrant County's crisis hotline is 1-877-701-7233, and resources are available on their website.

The report looked into the circumstances affecting those who were killed by their romantic partners in 2019. The organization’s president and CEO Kathryn Jacob said this report is done every year, but this is the first time it's been made public.

SafeHaven worked with local law enforcement, public health agencies and the District Attorney’s office to collect information about the victims who died. The interdisciplinary team was specifically looking at people who were killed after experiencing intimate partner violence. That can include physical, sexual or emotional violence.

“There has to have been an established pattern of what we call power and control in that relationship,” Jacob said. “Because the homicide is the ultimate act of power, from one person over another person.”

She said the goal is to find areas where the system failed victims.

“Every fatality that we review we ask, are there systemic problems that exist that, if they were solved, would possibly prevent this homicide from happening,” she said. “So, like, what systemic recommendations do we have as a result of this review?”

Then, SafeHaven takes their recommendations to local, state and federal officials with the hope of preventing future homicides.

They found that last year, eight women were killed in Tarrant County. The victims were diverse when it came to their age, race and socioeconomic standing, but all of the offenders were men.

Intimate partner homicides had been declining in Tarrant County in the last four years, but Jacob said 2020 is already the worst year on record. Seventeen homicides have been recorded since stay-at-home orders went into effect in March.

“An unintended consequence of a stay-at-home order really tells a victim that, you know, the government, the systems are not on my side. They're doing the same thing that my offender wants them to do,” she said. “That's tough because now she feels like she's not just up against her offender, but she's up against the new rules that we're living in.”

The report also showed that leaving an abusive situation does not guarantee a victim's safety. All but one of the women who died left their partner before the homicide occurred.

“So much of the language that we use is victim blaming, even asking why didn't she just leave? Well, why is that onus on her? Why should she have to go to shelter? She's not the one causing the problem,” Jacob said. “Instead of asking why didn't she just leave, why don't we ask, why do offenders keep abusing their partners?”

Jacob said SafeHaven and its community partners plan to go through the data and analyze the 2020 homicides later this month.

For those experiencing intimate partner violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1(800)-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org.

Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at rmorr@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

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