Domestic violence has been a problem in the San Antonio community for some time now. In 2020, COVID-19 created a whirlwind of additional trouble. As we all know, when the pandemic hit, nothing was the same as it was before. The stay-at-home order affected a lot of us in many ways. Stress and tension increased as our normal way of life came to a screeching halt. Many of us did not adjust well to staying in our homes on a regular basis – cabin fever is a real thing! On top of that, many people lost their jobs and are feeling the stress associated with loss of income. Suddenly spending significantly larger amounts of time in a confined space and with people you normally get breaks from will affect even the most level-headed person.
No one is immune to these stressors and we can see this though the growing rates of domestic violence. There has been a 21% increase in family violence calls to the San Antonio Police Department from January 1, 2020 through April 7, 2020 when compared to the same time frame in 2019. And these are only the phone calls that people are able and willing to make. Imagine the situation for someone who doesn’t feel safe and supported enough to make that call for help, or who now is forced to spend all their time at home with their abuser. Unfortunately, all too often, sometimes people can’t get help in time. In 2019, there were 27 domestic violence-related homicides in San Antonio. In August 2020, San Antonio had already surpassed that number with 30 domestic violence-related homicides. In 2018, Bexar County had the highest rate of domestic violence homicides in all of Texas. The pandemic is only compounding the danger that victims face on a daily basis.
Survivors of domestic violence also face additional challenges during this pandemic. Previously, if a victim had the courage and strength to leave their abusive situations, our community’s resources, organizations, and programs were there to help. However, many of our helping organizations have been burdened by the increased demand for help during a pandemic. Not only are shelter beds in higher demand, but many organizations are obligated to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and technology to offer virtual services. In normal times, social services for domestic violence victims are in high demand, but with the increase in need and extra equipment, without additional funding, agencies have been unable to meet the needs of all victims who need their services.
Our goal is to significantly reduce, and ultimately, stop domestic violence in our community. As a step to combat this rising problem, SALSA has partnered with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) to launch the Pro Bono Protective Order Project.
The Pro Bono Protective Order Project is recruiting volunteers to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking with obtaining protective orders, an often life-saving measure for victims. Due to the increase in incidents of domestic violence, notably homicides, in San Antonio coupled with the isolation victims are experiencing because of restrictions implemented during COVID-19, this project has become even more vital to ensuring victims have access to safety. We urge you to consider volunteering with our pro bono project – you can help victims of domestic violence escape a dangerous situation and keep themselves and their children safe!
This project includes opportunities for both attorney and non-attorney volunteers:
- Non-attorney volunteers are needed to assist with conducting trauma-informed interviews of potential clients and can also be a source of on-going support, if they choose, by providing court accompaniment and a listening ear throughout the process.
- Attorney volunteers will represent the clients throughout the entire legal process (including drafting/filing documents and attending court hearings).
No prior protective order experience is necessary – SALSA/TRLA will provide training and other resources. We will also be available throughout the life of the case should volunteers have questions or need guidance. At this time, volunteer efforts will continue to be remote for everyone’s safety during the pandemic.
Unable to volunteer? Please show your support for this issue by letting your state representatives and senators know that we need full funding for the resources, organizations, and programs that work diligently to help support survivors of domestic violence. All you have to do is go to https://tcfv.org/purple-postcard/ and fill out the Texas Council on Family Violence’s Purple Postcard (no postage required!). We need to stand united with survivors to ensure our community has the proper funding to help fight the problem of domestic violence.
 The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). Community-level Responses of Homelessness Assistance Programs to COVID-19: Data from May 2020. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from https://endhomelessness.org/community-level-responses-of-homelessness-assistance-programs-to-covid-19-data-from-may-2020/.