AUSTIN, Texas - Each year, millions of people are survivors of domestic violence. In many situations, even their close friends and family may not know what they're going through.
According to a new report in Texas, rates of violence hit near record highs last year. FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas spoke with Mikisha Hooper with the Texas Council on Family Violence to discuss the report.
Rebecca Thomas: So the annual Texas Victims Report, which gathers data on domestic homicides in Texas from the previous year, has been released. It's released every October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What does this year's report show?
Mikisha Hooper: This year, we're reporting the second highers number of intimate partner homicides that we've reported in the history of recording and documenting this information. We're also showing an increase in the number of young people who are victims of intimate partner homicide and who are perpetrating intimate partner homicide. And we're especially concerned about the increase year over year of the number of intimate partner homicides that are firearm related, and they're perpetrated with a gun.
Rebecca Thomas: So domestic violence has been declining for many years. It started to tick back up in 2014, and then it really started to increase over the past couple of years. How much of a role has the pandemic played in that?
Mikisha Hooper: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. And we think that the pandemic has had a really dramatic effect on domestic violence survivors and their safety. And what we've seen is an increase in the number of calls to law enforcement for help, but an increase in the number of calls to domestic hotlines, as well as, unfortunately, these tragic outcomes, and an increase in the number of domestic violence homicides that we're reporting.
Rebecca Thomas: So especially starting in 2020, we were locked down. People couldn't really go anywhere for long stretches of time. So how did that impact domestic violence and the increase in cases? And why do you think that is?
Mikisha Hooper: Well, first of all, domestic violence really thrives in isolation and silence. So when you can't access all of the resources that you would normally be able to access, and when you're not connected to the same communities and social circles and family, it compounds like the isolation that the abusive person is putting onto the relationship. So a lot of what we saw during that time, especially in 2020, were increased reports of how severe the violence was that people were experiencing. And then we also know people didn't have as many options or didn't feel safe navigating resources in the same way that they might have prior to 2020. So people really felt more constrained and were in significantly more danger then.
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Rebecca Thomas: If someone out there is going through a situation where they're in a domestic violence relationship, or a relationship where there is violence, or they know someone who is, what can you do to help?
Mikisha Hooper: That's such an important question. We know one in three Texans have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes. And it's so important that we know how to have conversations about safe and healthy relationships, and how to support people when they are being abused. So one thing we want everyone to know is that no one has to go through this alone, that there are experts in their community who can support them and help them navigate really complex and difficult situations and prioritize their safety. And there are resources, not just in October, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week that someone can reach out to anonymously, confidentially, to discuss what their options are, discuss what their concerns are, and learn more. Sometimes it's just a matter of starting with learning about red flags and understanding the context of abuse in relationships so that you can make decisions.
Rebecca Thomas: Mikisha Hooper with the Texas Council on Family Violence, thanks so much for being here and sharing your perspective with us tonight.
Mikisha Hooper: Thank you, Rebecca.