Domestic Violence Survivors in Texas Face Barriers to Safety

A new Texas study has found that the state has a shortage of beds for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). And although alternatives are typically offered, survivors may end up being isolated from much-needed services, such as crisis intervention, legal advocacy, support groups, medical advocacy, and counseling.

The bed shortage also affects how long IPV survivors are able to remain in a shelter, with the average stay lasting from six to 50 days, according to “A Statewide Survey of Family Violence Shelter Directors in Texas” by Lisa Muftic, Ph.D., assistant director of the Crime Victims’ Institute, and Jonathan Grubb of Sam Houston State University, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

“IPV is considered a global social problem significantly impacting the physical and mental health of survivors and their family members,” Muftic said.

“As a whole, this study provides an important step forward in recognizing the expansiveness of services to a variety of underserved populations while also acknowledging that multiple barriers continue to limit survivors’ utilization of shelter services.”

The findings were based on a survey of shelter directors across the state. While the State Council on Family Violence identified 81, 24-hour emergency shelters in the state, the study was based on responses from 27 shelter directors who completed online surveys.

According to the responses, the shelters served between 20 and 1,633 survivors in 2013, with an average of 366 per facility, which included an average of 186 children and 10 men.

Most shelter seekers were women, with one in ten being pregnant at the time of arrival. More than one-third were married to their abuser, more than one-third had sought earlier assistance from the shelter and one-quarter had sought assistance from another shelter in the previous 12 months. In addition, 4.7 percent were minors seeking shelter independently.

Of the shelters whose directors participated in the survey, all provided basic services in crisis management, legal advocacy, support groups, and community education and awareness. Most of the shelters also offered medical advocacy, individual counseling, and other services.

Directors indicated that many shelter seekers remain in fear of their husbands or partners and future abuse. They also live in fear that their children could be taken away from them.

Others don’t have transportation, child care, or money to be able to leave. Still others face citizenship issues or language barriers and cannot speak English or fear deportation, according to the directors.

Source: Sam Houston State University