While many other organizations were ceasing batterer intervention programs during the pandemic, American Indians in Texas, Healing the Wounded Spirit Program kept their doors open to continue providing services that help reduce the number of family violence incidents in our community.
The organization, a United Way Strong Individuals and Families Impact Council partner, works to interrupt the cycle of family violence and far exceeded their targets goals for participants remaining free of family violence incidents and reducing risk of re-offending. That’s a win-win for our families and our community.
Deaths from domestic violence increased statewide in 2020, Bexar County saw a 31% increase and there were 17 Bexar County residents lost their lives to domestic violence in 2020. “Bexar County is one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.1
The coronavirus pandemic intensified the problem, not only because courts were closed, but also because of the higher number of family violence cases filed with the judicial system.
Abuse can take many forms including physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats. The abuse may include behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound an intimate partner. Domestic violence can happen to anyone – regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender.2
American Indians in Texas (AIT) partnered with Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, Bexar County Special Domestic Violence Court, to be the only court program that provides psycho-education classes.
The court was recently recognized by US Department of Justice for its innovative process of working with offenders. Known as “Reflejo Court,” the court directly works with first-time offenders of domestic violence with a history of substance abuse to keep the offender out of the judicial system. It’s described as trauma-informed mental health, substance abuse treatment, with increased accountability and more reporting.
The AIT, whose staff were victims of family violence themselves, plans to create similar court programs. Focusing on humanizing perpetrators, AIT works to break down the anger and walls many victims have built up over time.
AIT-SCM has been providing culturally based services to Latino and Native American Indian youth and families in the inner-city Westside of San Antonio for over 10 years. Violent crime: including gang violence, intimate partner violence, and child abuse, and crimes against victims have been areas of focus for the organization and areas of concern for the community.
When lives are interrupted by traumatic events, the impact is broad and diverse, deep and life altering. At United Way, we are working with our nonprofit partners like American Indians in Texas to expand prevention and intervention services for those at risk of family violence or who are already victims or perpetrators themselves. Customized family services that help people stay safe and healthy include emergency shelter and crisis intervention for victims, in-home support, mental health and substance abuse services, access to respite care, financial counseling and support services for special needs families.
Domestic violence is not OK. For an alarming number of San Antonians, the family is a source of fear and physical violence. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call United Way’s 2-1-1 Helpline.