Domestic violence continues in Bandera County
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
The recent scandals involving domestic violence in the NFL have a lot of us talking about the subject. As always in cases of domestic violence, there is a lot of blaming the victim. Quite often, as in the case of Janay Rice, the victim even blames herself.
Both adult and child victims of domestic abuse often think they must have done something to deserve the beating. "I made Daddy mad by playing the TV too loud," or, "I should have told him the grocery bill was $110 instead of the $100 he said I could spend."
For those of us lucky enough not to have experienced domestic violence, either as children or adults, it's hard for us to understand why the adults don't leave. "Why did she marry him if he beat her up?" we ask.
Hill Country Cares
Well, as Glennda Wilke, victim advocate for Hill Country Cares, says, "Domestic violence is a complex issue." Hill Country Cares is an advocacy center for victims of domestic violence in Bandera and surrounding counties.
There are numerous reasons why the victim doesn't leave. One being she loves him. And she believes him when he says he's sorry and won't do it again. Another reason is fear. Abusers threaten their victims with even more abuse, even death, if they leave. Another big reason for not leaving is lack of funds and transportation. Abusers completely control the victim's finances. With no money, it's almost impossible to go to a hotel, or get on a bus. If children are involved, it's even more difficult.
Wilke advises victims to prepare themselves for leaving. "Have your stuff together, like your Social Security card, copy of your driver's license, birth certificates," she said. "Keep it in a bag elsewhere if you can." She suggests putting a little money aside regularly, even opening a separate bank account if the abuser allows her to have a job. "Even a little bit adds up after awhile," she said.
Finding housing for victims is a continuing challenge for Wilke and others like her who deal with domestic violence cases. "We have no Section 8 housing here," Wilke said. "We have relocated some cases as far away as Dallas and Austin, which have good Section 8 housing for single moms."
Wilke said part of what makes domestic violence a complex issue is that she is often "dealing with mental health issues, alcoholism and drug abuse," as well. In the last few years she and other case workers are seeing more cases involving immigration issues, too. "These women and children come here from Guatemala with nothing and no one to go to, so they are immediately taken into prostitution," she said. That leads to violent treatment as well as sexually transmitted diseases. There are women in the Hill Country area who are being held as virtual slaves in total isolation. No money. No transportation. No friends. No way to ask for help. No escape.
Hill Country Cares has shelters available for victims of domestic violence. They also provide a lot of legal aid for victims. That includes help with protective orders and even getting the victim an immigration attorney.
The advocacy center receives funding from various sources, including $500 from Bandera County. Many local churches also give generously. "We also accept donations for our clients [either cash or in kind]," said Wilke. "They need all the basics and things like nice clothes for their court appearances."
A victim can call Hill Country Cares at 830-796-3302, or toll free at 1-888-621-0047.
HC Cares helps victims through intervention, prevention, education and outreach. Intervention includes counseling and coordinating with local resources to get victims the help they need.
The agency provides prevention programs to over 19,000 students in area schools and works with perpetrators in the Choices program. Staffers educate teachers, law enforcement and community residents on spotting and reporting abuse and how not to become a victim. Their outreach program includes the shelter, the 24-hour hotline, clothing, food and counseling.
All services to victims and their children are free of charge. Re-Runs Thrift Shop in Kerrville is a fundraising venue for HC Cares.
According to a study by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC, based on statistics for 2012, Texas ranks 16th in states where men are most likely to murder women. For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 52 percent of female victims were shot, most of them with handguns that were in the house or apartment. So, having a gun in the house may not offer the protection one might hope for.
While we are often taught culturally to fear the bogeyman, the unknown assailant who comes out of the darkness - 93 percent of female victims were killed by someone they knew.
It is believed that police officers spend at least one-third of their time responding to domestic violence crimes. Domestic violence occurs in families of every income level, ethnic background, racial group, educational level and profession.
Bandera County data
In addition to Hill Country Cares, victim services in Bandera County include the County Attorney's Office, at 796-4075; K'Star, at 796-7960; Hill Country CASA at 830-896-2272; and Kids Advocacy Place, 830-895-4527. Area churches also provide some services and referral to Bandera County Helping Hand. Elderly victims may find assistance from AACOG's Alamo Area on Aging Division and the Silver Sage Community Center.
According to the Bandera County Criminal Justice Community Plan for 2013-14, "The need for more resources for local law enforcement, better communication systems for first responder departments in the county, affordable house, psychiatric and substance abuse services located in the county, public transportation, job opportunities and an increase in primary prevention programs are apparent."
The plan states that the county reported 121 family violence and 42 non-family violence cases in 2012 (the latest year for which complete data was available), which was an increase from the previous year.
The county had 185 allegations of child abuse/neglect, with 42 victims provided services by Child Protective Services and 21 children removed from the home.
Adult protective services confirmed abuse or neglect against residents over 64 or disabled in 45 cases of abuse investigated.
K'Star provided counseling services to 65 families that included 110 children. Hill Country Cares provided crisis intervention, counseling, advocacy, shelter and more to 45 victims, including victims of child and elder abuse/neglect, sexual assault and family violence. HC Cares estimated that as many as 80 victims of family violence do not leave the county for shelters and are unable to escape due to the lack of low-cost housing, lack of skills, crime related trauma, substance abuse disorders, or other disabilities.
Kid's Advocacy Place conducted 37 forensic interviews of child victims, and provided counseling and referrals to non-offending family members.
Local law enforcement, governmental departments, advocacy agencies, churches and schools work together on Bandera County's domestic violence problem.
The needs are there; the funding for improved or additional programs is hard to find.