AUSTIN, Texas - 183 women were killed by their intimate partners in Texas in 2020. That is the highest number recorded in the last decade according to a recent report by the Texas Council on Family Violence. The number of women killed by their male intimate partners jumped 22 percent from 2019, when 150 deaths were recorded.
In the past ten years, the number of women killed by a partner or former partner with a firearm has nearly doubled. In nearly 70 percent of intimate partner homicides in 2020 the perpetrator used a firearm.
Lt. Brett Bailey of the Austin Police Department's homicide and aggravated assault units says there is an "upward trend" in domestic violence aggravated assaults involving gun violence.
"2018 we saw 96 cases that involved gun violence, that was about the same for 2019 -- there were 97. And in 2020 we had 150 cases that involved gun violence so there was a significant increase. We’re looking at about 122 cases so far this year, which is on track probably to be in that area of 150 for the year." Bailey explained.
Karissa Hubbard says the numbers are "really hard" to see. Her aunt Terry Pittman was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend on Halloween ten years ago. "I've become an advocate for domestic violence awareness. And I hate for any woman to have to endure anything," she explained.
Hubbard says Pittman, 38, was returning home from trick-or-treating with her children when she encountered her ex-boyfriend Anthony Blackmon.
"He was there and upset just about her wanting to leave and moving on. And so a fight between them kind of erupted in the bedroom with the door locked and he began to fire off rounds at my aunt. He was, what we thought, a retired police officer, but we later found out that he was unable to pass his psychological test. So he was using his service gun. That, of course, had more rounds than a normal gun would have."
52-year-old Blackmon fatally shot Pittman, and fired at officers who forced their way into her bedroom. The officers returned fire killing Blackmon.
"All of my cousins, all four were there. The youngest being one, and my oldest cousin was trying to get into the room and had a knife and was trying to kind of unlock the door." said Hubbard.
Pittman had tried to file a protective order against Blackmon but was unsuccessful. It is unclear why. "If she complained about it one time, that should have been it." said Hubbard.
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence report, nearly half of all 2020 Texas domestic violence homicide victims had sought some sort of legal intervention -- contacting law enforcement or seeking a protective order. Women are almost four times more likely to be killed immediately after separating from an abusive partner. Almost 40 percent of 2020 domestic violence homicide victims had attempted to, or were planning to end their relationships.
"Because that person who is trying to maintain power and control has lost it ... So animals get hurt, children get hurt, people are killed, families get hurt." said Melinda Cantu of the SAFE Alliance.
More than 40 percent of family violence victims were denied shelter in 2020, solely due to lack of space according to TCFV.
"We don't have enough shelter resources for all of the people who need it. The pandemic made shelters have to go to half capacity for COVID protocols and safety of staff and residents," said Stephanie Burgess, a victim services supervisor for the Austin Police Department’s domestic violence unit.
Cantu said the 2020 numbers were expected with domestic violence victims "trapped at home with their abusers." Still she is not seeing improvement, even as vaccination rates rise and pandemic restrictions lift.
"Our own [SAFE] line last month, in September, we had the highest volume of calls that we've ever had in our history," said Cantu.
The SAFE line is available 24-hours by call at 512-267-SAFE or by text at 737-888-7233.