Meet the Texas Council on Family Violence
This month, meet the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV):
What is it like to do domestic violence work in Texas?
Domestic violence work in Texas “fills us up” and challenges us at the same time in the sense that our state devotes significant resources and attention to effectively addressing the issue and we simultaneously see great continued need for services and response. We like to plan out our work in a strategic manner, but we know that sometimes opportunities or challenges arise and so often find ourselves seeking balance between the essential and effective and the necessary but temporal.
In the challenge category, we would be remiss in not mentioning Harvey. This hurricane affected 32 programs along the Texas coastal areas. The leaders of these programs were visionaries in equipping their facilities to withstand hurricane grade weather. However, the complexities extend well beyond the physical infrastructure of shelter – staff of programs, survivors and supporters bore widespread personal loss. For those providers who sheltered in place, survivors experienced the best care possible. There is no better person equipped in trauma-informed crisis response than a domestic violence advocate. The recovery from Harvey’s devastation will take significant time, but domestic violence programs represent a central positive aspect of that recovery.
There were some silver linings to Harvey. For instance, Harvey came on the heels of national trauma in Charlottesville; Harvey showed the nation, and the world, the human capacity to give with abundance, to help selflessly, and to embrace one another without regard to differences.
What impact does your unique Texas context have on this work?
You might have heard that Texas is a big state. Geographically large and varied, our state provides a home for Texans from all walks of life and experiences. As a result, working at our coalition requires a diverse and extensive knowledge base across a variety of sectors and disciplines. Our excellent staff come to the coalition with energy and passion and extensive expertise in the criminal and civil justice system, public benefits, state agency interaction, legislative activism, and of course violence prevention.
Whatever diversity the universe has, you can find it in Texas. For a moment, consider our largest city – Houston, which does not have an ethnic majority. Imagine that!
What are the biggest barriers that survivors face in Texas?
Because of the diversity we have in Texas, survivors and those that serve them across the state experience and encounter a variety of different and similar barriers. We know that in Texas, 5 million lifetime victims of family violence occupy homes across Texas; in reality only a tiny portion of these victims ever seek services, so the challenge for us is finding and working with survivors “where they’re at.” Effective and efficient family violence center services represent a strong ethic for our state; we also look for opportunities to help marginalized communities move forward from violence. Changes to immigration enforcement have created significant fear amongst survivors and those related to them. Texas’ 39 percent turn away rate for those seeking services represents the highest percentage of any state in the country and so of course this is a significant barrier.
What’s happening in Texas that you’re excited about or proud of?
TCFV and its amazing staff, much like Texas itself, does our work and looks forward with continued and unbridled optimism. We are so proud of all our efforts that choosing one itself represents a challenge. Forced to it, though, we highlight these three huge efforts from the past year that are ongoing:
- We have now joined the 39 other states in creating greater confidentiality of program records and conversations victims have with advocates. Now Texas’ victim privilege represents one our state’s strongest privileges, even rivaling attorney-client privilege.
- We have devoted significant and continued resources to prevention activities, having assembled an amazing team of four full-time coalition members. Our new Director of Prevention, Shannon Murdoch, stands poised to implement her vision for TCFV’s prevention efforts moving forward. Curious about Shannon? Consider writing her to get to know her team’s important work at [email protected].
- #Tech2Empower, this year’s TCFV biennial statewide conference, occurred this last September despite the arrival of #NotOurFriendHarvey to our gulf coast. The conference bridged the knowledge points between the increasing positive and negative uses of technology and domestic violence response and prevention. To our great relief, many folks from across many disciplines attended the event, but of course we missed our Gulf Coast partners.
At the conference, we also debuted a new awareness campaign When Words Fail, Music Speaks; this series of music videos allows our colleagues in the live music capital, Austin, and nearby San Antonio to join in advocating against domestic violence in an uplifting and positive manner. Have I piqued your interest? Check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrfbMEMP7k0 or just search “Texas Council on Family Violence.”
Are there any champions in Texas that you’d like to thank or celebrate for their record or work on domestic violence?
Although we live in a time of challenge in the political landscape, TCFV’s efforts with its state and federal delegation have yielded solid and important results. During our recently completed state legislative cycle, members from both sides of the aisle came together to champion our agenda and increase state funding for family violence services despite a tough budget cycle. State Senators Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (Vice Chair of our Senate Finance Committee) and Van Taylor and State Representatives Todd Hunter and Abel Herrero authored and sponsored all the bills on our agenda* (which passed). State Senator Jane Nelson (Senate Finance Chair) and State Representative Sarah Davis deserve particular appreciation for their advocacy for accomplishing additional funding.
On the federal level, Senator Cornyn and his staff continue to serve as strong and effective partners in both safeguarding VAWA, VOCA, FVPSA, and even HUD funding. They have also introduced key pieces of legislation related to human trafficking and have shaken up the way HUD works with family violence programs on transitional housing. Representative Ted Poe’s long-time presence and efforts in support of victims as the Chair of the Victim’s Rights Caucus make us proud and Representative Robert Culberson’s continuing and recent comments on pledging strong support for funding of domestic violence services also encouraged us during this time of tight federal budgets.
How is TCFV working to end domestic violence?
We continue to hold to the principles that survivors deserve safety and we should work to hold offenders accountable. Of course, the movement has evolved over time and so exactly what this looks like continues to evolve. We look to provide expert advice and leadership for member programs in their service provision, push the envelope from the inside out when it comes to the criminal and civil justice response, raise awareness on the issue of family violence and earnestly provide resources to support the “long-game” of prevention efforts.
If TCFV was a musician or music group, who would you be and why?
In light of our recent efforts with great Central Texas musicians, we’d definitely be all of them: the Baltiarri sisters (Tori, Sophia, and Tiffany), The Mrs., SaulPaul, the Tiarra Girls, and Haydn Vitera. Never heard of these great artists? You will soon; scout them out on YouTube!
Learn more about TCFV: