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San Antonio’s Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence continues goal to help survivors

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
Members of the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence, led by Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, pause for a moment of silence for the lives lost during the last year due to domestic violence.

If you are in need of support, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has a special 24/7 hotline at 210-207-1878. The National Domestic Hotline is also available at 800-799-7233.

When San Antonio and Bexar County’s Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence was created in 2019, the goal was to coordinate separate yet otherwise effective services in providing aid to survivors.

Now two years in, the commitment is there and the network is growing. Even with stymied impacts of the pandemic, the multi-member commission is keeping its unification efforts in sight. In 2020, the commission established a five-year plan with commitments to provide an update each year.

The work is divided up between six committees, each tasked with streamlining someone’s ability to navigate the many social services and aid groups who can provide shelter, safety and support to someone who is a survivor of domestic violence.

Organizers of the commission gathered on the steps of city hall this week to announce their progress in its first two years. Judge Monique Diaz, a co-chair for the commission, said one of the major accomplishments so far is creating a hotline for survivors who have reached out for help.

“Any time a victim comes to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in need of domestic violence assistance they can call this hotline, conduct a quick lethality assessment and connect them with the resources that they need,” she said.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said once a deputy responds to a family violence call, the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council is contacted and the assessment is conducted.

“If a victim is identified as high risk, we tell him or her directly we’re concerned for your safety you’re a high risk for being killed and we need to get you somewhere safe tonight it sounds like a small thing but those words can have a lot of power,” Salazar said.

Victims are able to find shelter at the Battered Women’s Shelter or San Antonio Metropolitan Health District can provide funding for a hotel room.

While one is in place with the sheriff's office, the commission has a goal for Year 3 to have a similar procedure set up with San Antonio Police Department by October 2022.

San Antonio’s Deputy City Manager Maria Villagomez, also a co-chair of the commission, says more emergency calls for domestic violence have been made to 911 which she hopes is a sign of more people seeking help.

“We don’t know with certainty today if it's the result of our education awareness efforts but this is going to help us build a foundation to be able to make sure that we are moving the needle in this issue down the road,” she said.

From 2019 to 2020, SAPD saw an 11% increase in family violence calls from 61,495 calls to 68,025. The largest increase in calls was for violation of protective order and family disturbance calls involving guns which both saw a 34% jump. There is data for the first nine months of 2021 as of the last report issued by the commission in November. It shows 55,123 family violence calls were made by the end of September.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules