Love Is Respect

Posted on February 7, 2018

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month 

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. When we think of the term "domestic violence," teen dating violence is not usually the first thought that comes to mind. We think of married partners or adult partners who are living together with their children. When we think of the children and teens involved we think of them more as witnesses to the violence, but that is not always the case. In fact, teen dating violence is much more prevalent than most people realize, with nearly 1.5 MILLION high schoolers nationwide suffering physical abuse from an intimate partner each year. 

What are the signs of dating violence?

Let's Talk Stats

1 in 3 adolescents in the US is a victim of intimate partner violence (verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical), exceeding the adult statistic of 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men. In fact, teens are more likely to be a victim of intimate partner violence than any other form of youth violence. Teens and young women are the most at-risk population for domestic violence, almost half (46%) of dating college women are victims of dating violence, and girls ages 16-24 experience the absolute highest rate of dating violence (3X the national average). 

Abuse is a form of violence that never really goes away. The bruises may heal and fade, but many of the effects of dating violence are felt long-term. Being a victim of dating violence as a teen puts survivors at high risk of developing eating disorders, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, and experiencing more/further domestic violence. Physically and sexually abused teens are 6 times more likely to have a teen pregnancy, and twice as likely to contract a STI than non-abused teens. They are also at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can significantly affect all aspects of a survivor's life. 

What does counseling for a teen survivor look like?

Let's Talk Prevention

So what can we do about it? Spread awareness! An astounding 81% of parents do not think that dating violence is an issue! We must talk to our kids about what dating violence can look like and who to turn to for help. Only 33% of teens in an abusive relationship will disclose the abuse to anyone and part of the reason is that they may fear they will not be believed or that it is their fault. It's on all of us to create an embracing culture that supports victims and survivors of violence. That starts with spreading awareness and access to resources. 

Community Education is a big part of what we do here at Denton County Friends of the Family. In fact, in 2017 we educated over 28,956 community members throughout Denton County. We offer programs about the prevention of relationship violence and sexual assault to all parts of our community. From our Bumbles presentations with children as young as kindergarten-aged to healthy relationship presentations for teens. We cover the whole spectrum of education for youth about teen dating violence, relationship violence and sexual assault. If you would like more information about scheduling a presentation or partnering with our community education team then let's get connected.  

Get Connected

If you feel you or someone you know may be experiencing dating violence, please call our 24-hour crisis line at 940.382.7273 or 800.572.4031. Crisis line calls are an anonymous and confidential way to get more information and ask questions you may have been afraid to ask anyone else. 

*Statistics courtesy of 

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Domestic Human Trafficking

Posted on February 1, 2018

Human Trafficking

Guest Author: Dr. Nicole Holmes, DCFOF Director of Policy and Training

When people think of Human Trafficking or the more appropriate term, sex slavery, they typically think of it as something that happens elsewhere.  It is seen as a problem in places such as India, Cambodia or the Philippines.  We are often reluctant to recognize the prevalence of this horrific human rights violation in our own back yard.  When Americans do acknowledge that sex slavery occurs in the United States, it is still seen as an international crime.  It is viewed as “others” kidnapping white women and children to be taken across seas or women brought from other countries to be forced into prostitution in the United States.  While these crimes do occur at an alarmingly high rate, a large proportion of sex slavery in the U.S. falls under the category of Domestic Human Trafficking.  Domestic Human Trafficking can take many forms, but the end result is an individual being forced into sexual servitude with their liberty, safety, humanity, dignity, and choice taken from them.  Here are some common examples of Domestic Human Trafficking:

  • A mother sells her 11 year-old daughter to a child pornography and prostitution ring for money to support her drug habit.
  • A father consents to the marriage of his 12 year-old daughter to an adult male for a “bride price,” where the child experiences ongoing rape, abuse, and control.
  • A husband forces his wife into prostitution; controlling the money, partners, and settings.
  • A “boyfriend” or predatory male blackmails a teen girl into prostitution, continually increasing threats and control until the teen is adequately isolated from her support systems.
  • A runaway teenager is offered food/shelter/compassion as a trade for sex and is then groomed to provide more sexual acts for continued support until they are eventually deep under the abuser’s control.

Any of the above situations can and often do lead to forced pornography and selling of the individuals to other “pimps,” often across state lines.  The victim is often provided with drugs, given under the guise of care or fun, but in reality used to further maintain control over the victim.  The victim becomes increasingly dependent on the trafficker as they are further isolated from support systems and normal life.  The victim is taught to believe that they have no value beyond providing sex, would be rejected by anyone they turned to, and need the trafficker for food, shelter, protection, and drugs.  The trafficker may additionally blackmail the victim with threats of disclosing what “they have done” to their family or threatened the victim with increased violence and/or harm to their loved ones.  The victim’s fears of others are often reinforced when they are arrested for prostitution or possession of drugs and treated as a common criminal.  The victim may try to reach out for help and be rejected because of a criminal history of prostitution or because of their drug addiction.  Each of these incidents is proof to the victim that the trafficker is right and they give-up seeking a way out.  Unfortunately, these women and children often have a very short life, with high incidents of murder, suicide, and drug overdose.

Despite the sad and helpless tone of this narrative, there is hope!  There are agencies across the nation, like Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF), which provide services to victims of human trafficking.  DCFOF has an emergency safety shelter for victims who need a hidden and comfortable place that provides secrecy and protection from the trafficker.  DCFOF provides transitional housing, advocacy, legal assistance, case management, career, school, and financial guidance, and other resources to assist victims in finding independence and a new life.  Additionally, DCFOF provides professional counseling for adults, adolescents, and children to help victims heal from the traumas they have experienced and find true recovery.  If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking/sex slavery please reach out for help. 

You can call the Denton County Friends of the Family Hotline at 940-382-7273/800-572-4031 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

Get Help

*Image from
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National Stalking Awareness Month

Posted on January 25, 2018

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, first observed by the National Center for Victims of Crime in January 2004. Denton County Friends of the Family works diligently to inform and educate our community about the possibility of intimate partner stalking escalating into intimate partner violence. #NSAM

Every year in the United States, 7.5 million people report occurrences of stalking. The majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, with half reporting that the incidence occurred before age 25. 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner, and 67% of women who are stalked by their intimate partner also report having been physically abused by them.

The Texas penal code defines stalking as when someone knowingly engages in behavior that someone else would find threatening, and that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. A stalker tries to control his or her victim through behavior or threats intended to intimidate and/or terrify.

Myths and Facts about stalking:

Myth: It can’t be stalking if you’re dating the person.

Fact: Even if you’re dating, if your every move is being tracked by your partner and it causes you fear, that is stalking.

Myth: Only celebrities deal with being stalked.

Fact: The majority of the 7.5 million people who are stalked every year are ordinary people.

Myth: Stalking is annoying and inconvenient but it is not illegal.

Fact: Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In Texas, stalking is a 3rd degree felony, and with a prior stalking conviction, it becomes a 2nd degree felony.

If you are being stalked, notify local law enforcement (and possibly the district attorney offices), keep a record that includes names and addresses of witnesses, seek a protective order, record telephone conversations, take pictures of the stalker, and tell as many people as you can. Then, keep telling. Be sure to develop measures to help yourself stay safe. Be alert, vary your routes to and from places you often visit like work or the grocery store, park in secure and well-lit areas, maintain privacy on social media and anywhere conversations could be overhead, and work with agencies like ours to develop a safety plan for yourself and your family members in case of emergency. Most importantly, do not dismiss any threat. A stalker’s behavior has potential to escalate quickly.

If you are a victim of stalking, alert local law enforcement as soon as possible. Denton County Friends of the Family is dedicated to helping our community stay safe through prevention, education, awareness, intervention, and advocacy. For more information, visit programs/stalking-resource-center. Stalking is not romantic and it is not a joke: it is a crime.

Not sure if this applies to you/your relationship?  Call our 24-Hour Crisis Line for anonymous information and advice: 940-382-7273 or 800-572-4031

Crisis Line Information

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Meet the Board Leadership

Posted on January 18, 2018

At DCFOF, our Board of Directors is a very important part of our agency's leadership. With professions spanning from teaching to real estate, our volunteer board members donate their time, talent, and treasure to make our agency as successful as possible. They oversee the agency's development, financial health, and even help with our biggest fundraising events. Meet the amazing leaders of the 2018 DCFOF Board of Directors! 

2018 Board Chair: Celisa Willson 

Classifying Celisa as a “Texas girl” is a bit of an understatement.  In her family, she represents the 6thgeneration to be born and raised right here in Denton County.  As a REALTOR®, being involved in her community is very important, and DCFOF gives her the ability to help with what she considers a necessity: empowering women.  Celisa has been happily married to her husband, Rob, since 1995 and enjoys traveling, networking, re-doing furniture and rooting for her Dallas Cowboys! 

2018 First Vice Chair: Charles Marinello 

Charles became a Friends of the Family board member in 2016 and brings executive general management and strategic focus to the board. He is currently the CEO of Strategic Growth Partners, LLC, and is a retired VP from Texas Instruments and Raytheon. He has a BS, MS, and MBA. 

2018 Second Vice Chair: Susan Stout 

Susan Stout is the Store Director for Tiffany & Co. at the Dallas Galleria.  A Dallas native, she graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in Radio/Television & Film, and spent her early career in the hospitality industry with Four Seasons Hotels.  Susan joined the DCFOF Board after working with them for many years as a corporate sponsor. Tiffany & Co. and DCFOF have a very special partnership, and it was through this that Susan learned about the important and meaningful work that DCFOF provides to the community.   Susan has also served as a professional mentor and business internship host with the SMU Alumni Association, ICIMS mentor with the Frisco Independent School District, scholarship reviewer for the Irving Schools Foundation, Board Member with Chamberlain Performing Arts in Plano, member of the Metrocare Auxiliary, event committee chair for both The Taylor Hooton Foundation Gala and the North Texas Energy for Life Walk, and is a current member of the DCFOF Women’s Auxiliary. 

2018 Secretary: Kim Guertler 

Kim has worked for the Denton County Criminal District Attorney’s Office for 20 years.  During her time of working in the Family Violence Unit, she had the opportunity to work closely with Friends of the Family staff and she became passionate about helping victims of domestic violence.  She joined the Board in 2017 and she is excited about having the opportunity to serve DCFOF in this capacity.  Kim is a longtime Denton County resident and a graduate of Texas Woman’s University.  She and her husband, Peter, have two children and they enjoy travelling, riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycle and spending time with their kids.  

2018 Treasurer: Brandon Reed, CPA 

Brandon is a practicing CPA at KHA Accountants, PLLC in Denton with a focus on taxation and business consulting. He and his wife, Alex, enjoy the outdoors and hitting a few balls at the tennis courts whenever they have some free time. He also enjoys spending time with his two nieces and two nephews on the weekends. 

Brandon moved back to the North Texas area from Abilene in 2016 and has been active in the community ever since. He caught wind of the amazing things Denton County Friends of the Family does for the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and wanted to help in any way he could. He has a passion to help create a safe community and serve those that have been affected by violence. 

2018 Board Development Chair: Gene Cherrnay 

Inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gene has spent his career in architecture and remodeling. He is proud to serve on the DCFOF board for seven years, as he has seen first-hand how domestic violence wreaks havoc in the lives of the children and adults who have been impacted by it. He is an avid camper and spends his "off" time doing so on the Brazos River and adoring his two grand children (Asher and Ellie Joan), as well as his loveable beagle, Leah Matilda. 

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An Evening of Raised Awareness with Dr. Yamma Brown

Posted on January 16, 2018

Get ready for an evening of raised awareness at our Black History Month Kickoff Event!

We are hosting “An Evening of Raised Awareness with Dr. Yamma Brown”, on February 1st , from 7:00pm-8:30pm at the Patterson Appleton Arts Center. Dr. Yamma Brown is an author and daughter of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. The evening will be an observance of Black History Month and will explore the history of domestic violence within the African American community.

Date: Thursday, February 1st 2018
Time: Volunteer Social: 7:00pm-8:30pm
Location: Patterson Appleton Arts Center/GDAC

​Get Tickets

Dr. Brown had this to say about the upcoming awareness event, “It’s important for us to promote healthy relationships in our families and communities.  As a survivor of domestic violence, I am committed to continuing to raise awareness and to combat this global issue.  I am excited to partner with organizations like Denton County Friends of the Family that are committed to support victims and garner the community involvement to eradicate violence in our families.  We must be vigilant in making sure the next generation fosters respect for themselves and others.  We are stronger together.”

This event highlights one of our agency's unintentional best kept secrets- The Our Community Matters program at Denton County Friends of the Family. Statistically, African American women are 35% more likely to experience domestic violence than women of other races. The Our Community Matters program at Friends of the Family focuses on engaging the African American community and bringing increased awareness to the resources available for victims of domestic violence. Cassandra Berry, coordinator of the Our Community Matters program at Friends of the Family, said, “I’m looking forward to kicking off the observance of Black History Month with Dr. Yamma Brown. It’s extremely important for us to acknowledge and celebrate survivors of domestic violence. Dr. Brown is a survivor and her life experiences help keep at the forefront the need to support our agency in providing compassionate and comprehensive services to our clients. As we know the observance of Black History is not specific to only African Americans’ participation, it’s a part of everyone’s history. So we look forward to everyone from all cultures joining us in the celebration and the raising of our awareness.”

Get Tickets


Dr. Yamma Brown is the vice president of the James Brown Foundation and president and founder of Daughter of Soul Productions. She is the youngest daughter of Deidre Jenkins and James Brown. It is her life's mission to right the legacy and maintain the work of her late father. Dr. Yamma Brown is the author of Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me. Being the child of a global superstar is never easy. Being the daughter of the Godfather of Soul- that's a category unto itself. Like every little girl, Yamma Brown wanted her father's attention, but fame, drugs, jail, and the complicated women in James Brown's life set a stage for an uncommon childhood. Cold Sweat is about how Yamma rose to meet every challenge. Dealing with a complex and famous father eventually took a backseat to coping with her own abusive and deceitful marriage. Cold Sweat is about how Yamma got caught in the same trap as her mother, doing things in her adult life that, as a child, she'd promised herself she'd never do. 

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Equip Yourself in 2018

Posted on January 3, 2018

How Can I Be Equipped in 2018? 

equip yourself in 2018- sexual and domestic violence

How you can be prepared, or prevent yourself from being a victim, is a question that is too common and frankly it is a problem. This concept is one that many people have read, been a part of, or are at least familiar with. Maybe you've taken the self defense classes highlighting how "not to be a victim", or ways to protect yourself. Which is great, we're not knocking self defense classes! Let's just think about this for a second- with this type of messaging the responsibility or burden for safety is put on the victim. This mentality is known as victim blaming. We would like to take a moment to clarify that no matter the circumstances the victim is not responsible for the actions of an abuser, and therefore this concept of prevention efforts for victims is misaligned.

Here's why- abuse is a choice. A choice the perpetrator or abuser makes. They make a choice to physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually harm the other person. Enabling behavior often echoes stories about how the abuser can't help it or something happened (whatever the story is) and that's why the abuser hurt the victim. At the end of the day abuse is not a cause and effect concept, it is a choice. Ask yourself this- why can someone go to a job they hate with coworkers they cannot stand and a demanding boss, and not harm their co-workers or boss, but then comes home and reacts completely differently around their partner? Because this is a choice they make. They actively choose not to hit their boss in the same way they actively choose to hit their partner.

So domestic violence 101 question of the day- what is the cause of abuse? Choice. Now, there are certainly variables that impact safety concerns or risks and our team of advocates are trained to help navigate these with victims/survivors. But at the end of the day blaming the victim in anyway is part of the problem not part of the solution.

How To Be Equipped

So that brings us to our tips on how YOU can equip yourself in 2018. Like we mentioned above, you can't necessarily equip yourself to not be a victim but you can equip yourself to be an advocate. So here's 2 of the top things you need to know this year in order to be an advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence right here in Denton County. 

1. Don't Judge Her 

It is not your job to tell her what to do or try to understand the reasoning behind her decisions or actions. First of all, you can't make reason out of something that doesn't really make sense to begin with. To put it simply, someone that she loves is hurting her, that alone does not make sense. We often hear people asking why a woman doesn't just leave an abusive situation. There are many barriers to leaving. You can read a more comprehensive list of barriers to leaving an abusive relationship in this past blog post but for now let's just talk about one: her safety. The most dangerous time for a victim of violence is when she is trying to leave her abuser. The Honoring the Texas Victims report, distributed annually by the Texas Council on Family Violence, is one place we see this safety risk come to life. In 2016, 146 women were killed by their intimate partners. Many of these stories share this in common- "forty percent of women killed in 2016 had made attempts to end their relationships or were in the process of ending the relationship when they were murdered." As you can see there are extreme dynamics and safety risks within an abusive relationship. Keep this in mind and don't judge her when she is brave enough to come forward with her story. 

2. Connect Her With Friends of the Family 

At Friends of the Family our team of experts provide compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with the community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention. If ANYONE, child or adult, is currently experiencing sexual and domestic violence or has experienced this in the past, we can be a resource! You can provide them with our 24-Crisis Line number, 800-572-4031. They can call this line anonymously and have questions answered or talk through some options with our team of trained crisis line professionals. In addition, someone can call our Outreach Office at 940-387-5131 to schedule an appointment in order to meet with one of our staff members and learn about the services available to them and their family. We are the sole provider of comprehensive services throughout the entire County of Denton. We are the local experts and can help connect your family, friends, neighbors and loved ones to the right resources to help them access safety. 

You may not understand all that goes on behind closed doors, but you can know how to help someone if they are brave enough to come and share those stories of fear, anxiety, and abuse.You are not there to tell them what to do, you are there to empathize and give them resources. Listen, don’t judge and direct them to our agency! This is how you can equip yourself to be an advocate in 2018. 

Our team at Denton County Friends of the Family is here for our community, ready to help victims/survivors access safety and navigate the road to hope. 

Contact Us 

What Services Are Available at Friends of the Family

At Friends of the Family we provide access to comprehensive services. More information about the type of services available can be accessed through our website under our Get Help section or by calling our Outreach Office at 940-387-5131. Services available include: 

  • Safety Planning 
  • Individual and Group Counseling 
  • Play Therapy for Children 
  • Activity Therapy for Adolescents
  • Emergency Shelter 
  • Legal Services
  • Advocacy 
  • Access to Crimes Victim Compensation 
  • Help Navigating the Legal System 
  • Food Pantry 
  • Education Programs
  • And more, based upon the needs of the client... 

Thank you for investing in safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention for victims of sexual and domestic violence. 

Contact Us

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Typical warning signs of abuse

1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence - Preview

1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence

4,405 adults and children received 94,065 services in 2019 - Preview

4,405 adults and children received 94,065 services in 2019