Houston Area Women's Center launches safety planning campaign as domestic violence deaths soar

Shannon Ryan Image
Thursday, March 30, 2023
As domestic violence deaths soar, women's center pivots
Houston Area Women's Center launches its safety planning campaign to help domestic violence victims escape toxic relationships, the non-profit says.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Area Women's Center is launching a new campaign to help victims of abuse with safety planning as a response to the dramatic uptick in domestic violence homicides.

Deaths resulting from domestic violence doubled in the Houston area between 2019 and 2022, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence. Of the more than 200 Texans that died from family violence in 2021, nearly a quarter of them was from the Houston area.

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

Jessica Flores experienced the pain of domestic violence firsthand.

"I was married to a man who said he loved me," she explained. She said he abused her sexually, physically, and psychologically.

"He threw my cat away just to hurt me," Flores said.

When she finally tried leaving him, he beat her so badly she was hospitalized.

She now believes it could have been prevented with safety planning.

"I did not know that when you leave the relationship, it's the hardest part," she said.

Women are almost four times more likely to be killed after leaving an intimate partner, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.

READ MORE: 'Tremendously traumatized' Houston police face the growing problem of domestic violence

On Wednesday, Flores, who is a recipient of the Houston Area Women's Center services, helped the non-profit launch its safety planning campaign as a push to get people to take advantage of their 24/7 planning services.

"It's a series of questions that allows a person to really assess the danger that they're in and plan for their safety," HAWC CEO Emilee Whitehurst explained.

Nearly half of the center's client base is Hispanic.

"We've got to stop the taboo that exists. We've got to stop sometimes that machismo," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

"According to the CDC, nearly 35% of Hispanic women say they've experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. That's more than one in three," District I Houston City Council Member Robert Gallegos said.

Gallegos attributed the numbers to "unique factors" like language, economic and immigration status, all of which were weaponized against Flores.

"He would threaten to call immigration to have me deported. He would tell me he had the white power," she said of her ex-husband.

If you need help getting out of a domestic violence situation, call the Houston Area Women's Center 24/7 hotline at 713-528-2121 or call AVDA at 713-224-9911. You can also click here to chat with an advocate online. If you are deaf or hard of hearing and need help, call 713-528-3625.

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