Houston-area domestic violence homicides doubled in 3 years, UH study finds

Jessica Willey Image
Thursday, February 9, 2023
UH study finds domestic violence homicides doubled in 3 years
A domestic violence study by the University of Houston found that intimate partner homicides have doubled in three years.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A University of Houston domestic violence study found that intimate partner homicides have doubled in three years.

The video above is from a previous domestic violence 20-year record in Houston report.

The study's findings, which came from the university's Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality program, are detailed in a February 2023 report that studied Houston-area domestic violence providers and aggregated local domestic violence data.

The report used combined data from the Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff's Office, according to Elizabeth Gregory, with UH's Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

It found there were 32 intimate partner violence homicides in 2019, 46 in 2020, 60 in 2021, and 64 in 2022.

The report also found a decline in calls for shelter during the pandemic, likely due to victims in lockdown with their abusers and fear of developing COVID-19 while in a shelter.

The decline was followed by a rise in calls for shelter at above or equal to pre-pandemic levels, the report revealed.

To turn the tide, UH said it recommends community investment in expanded domestic violence infrastructure coordination and staffing.

The school said the recommendation is based on interviews and group discussions the researchers had with leaders of 16 Houston-area domestic violence shelters and nonresidential agencies.

"We want to share these insights about the high levels of violence toward women in our region and the under-investment to date in the infrastructure that helps survivors, so the community can take appropriate action," Gregory said.

RELATED: Harris County saw startling increase in deadly domestic violence cases, report shows

"We make this recommendation as a starting point for expanding services and for beginning to name and address causes," she continued.

"The report painted a picture we already knew was happening, but it put it on paper what we need to do to alleviate, to better serve survivors so that we're not forgetting about them," explained Olivia Rivers, executive director of The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, an agency that participated in the study.

The school said domestic violence providers identified inefficiencies like operational redundancies, a lack of unified voice on domestic violence, and limited pooled data when each provider operates on its own.

"I have been thirsty for 10 years for this coalition to have a united voice," Bibi Khan, president and founder of An-Nisa Hope Center, said in a quote from the report. "Instead of us struggling individually if we have this team and this voice, I think more people will listen to us."

The Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC), which is not a county agency, provides essential services on housing, community training, and law enforcement review. But, according to the report, it is underfunded and currently can supply only a portion of the coordination needed.

"I hope that people listen and we do get some additional resources," Amy Smith, with HCDVCC, said.

The institute's report advises creating several staff positions, including an operations manager, a researcher/evaluator, a communications coordinator and a grant writer based in the HCDVCC, and additional staff within provider organizations. An investment of $1 million a year for at least five years would be transformative, the report states.

The report's other findings included the following:

  • Harris County has 330 shelter beds, while New York City, with twice the population, has more than ten times as many shelter beds, at 3,500.
  • The number of households (generally mothers and children) requesting housing increased from 956 in 2021 to 1307 in 2022, not including carry-over.
  • Black women made up 52% of female intimate partner violence homicide victims, though they comprise only 20% of women in Harris County.
  • While women make up the majority of intimate partner violence homicide victims, men make up the majority of victims of other forms of family violence.
  • Guns accounted for 73% of identified intimate partner violence deaths from 2019 to 2022.

SEE ALSO: 'Tremendously traumatized' Houston police face the growing problem of domestic violence

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