The intersection of homelessness and domestic violence is the connection of two extraordinarily serious social issues facing communities. Survivors fleeing abusive relationships often must leave their homes, with no other available housing options. Advocates within this field consistently see women and families become homeless as a direct result of domestic violence, and this, in turn, increases the risks for survivors experiencing abuse.
Survivors face numerous barriers to safety on a daily basis and are often trapped between experiencing continued violence or homelessness. Abusers use control tactics to isolate the survivor from their support network(s), limit their access to finances, employment, or education, cut them off from community resources, and create a constant state of fear. An abuser’s use of power and control can create barriers to accessible housing for the survivor. Abusers will often destroy a survivor’s credit or rental history by generating debt in the survivor’s name or defaulting on bills that have the survivor’s name listed on them, which then makes it increasingly more difficult to obtain a lease. Survivors may also experience lack of steady employment, resulting from missing work due to violence or being fired due to the abuser’s stalking/harassing behaviors. Many survivors also face housing discrimination when landlords evict them due to repeated police presence at the apartment or property damage caused by the abuser. Abusers may also cause a survivor to lose subsidized or other affordable housing by violating the voucher requirements or rental agreement. These barriers are further compounded for people who experience additional forms of oppression, such as people of color, the LGBTQ community, First Nations people, immigrants, persons with disabilities, and individuals experiencing poverty. Folks with children also face additional risks. With a lack of resources, survivors are often forced to choose between continued violence and not knowing where their child’s shelter and next meal will come from.
It is imperative for communities to recognize the intersection of homelessness and domestic violence and join in the fight to combat both these forms of oppression. Community partners make our work at Denton County Friends of the Family possible. We would not be able to provide safety, support, and housing for survivors without your continued help. Below are ways that you can get involved to help our community.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM). The purpose behind #SAAM is to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and the impact that it has on victims and survivors. As community members, we all have a choice to advocate for victims in our daily lives. Whether it is through volunteering, sharing social media posts about the issue, or holding those accountable around you when they perpetuate the cycle of violence, you have the power to be a part of the solution and stand up for victims.
In honor of #SAAM, take the pledge to #StartByBelieving! As an advocate in the community, you pledge to:
Start by believing when someone tells you they were raped or sexually assaulted
Support survivors on the road to justice and healing
Help end the silence.
2 in 5 women in Texas will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. With the rise of the #MeToo movement we have an opportunity to be a part of a grassroots change to support and believe victims of sexual assault. Take the pledge and be a part of the solution this #SAAM!
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to TAASA (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault), Sexual Assault is best understood as a broader continuum of unwanted non-mutual sexual actions that range from subtle to extremely violent. It can include but is not limited to rape, sexual threats, intimidation, incest, sexual assault by intimate partners, child sexual abuse, human sexual trafficking, sexual harassment, street harassment, and other forms of unwelcomed, coerced or non-consensual activity.
Sexual Assault can happen to anyone. As advocates, it is our duty to know the warning signs of those who may be survivors of Sexual Assault, and how to best assist them in their healing.
With any rape, sexual assault, or domestic abuse case, as a friend or ally, always believe the victim. Believe the warning signs that there is trauma and feel encouraged to reach out to our Crisis Line at any time, day or night. 800-572-4031 or 940-387-7273
Warning Signs for Adults:
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Avoidance of people or places
Failing grades/lack of work productivity
Increase in drug/alcohol intake
Warning Signs for Teens:
Unusual weight gain or loss
Unhealthy eating patterns (loss of appetite or excessive eating)
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Expressing thoughts of suicide
Anxiety / Worry
Warning Signs for Children:
Sharing obscene images
Trauma to genitals or unexplained bleeding
Sexual behavior inappropriate for a child that age
Not wanting to be left alone with certain people
Avoids removing clothing or taking baths
Excessive talk or knowledge about sexual acts
Resuming behaviors that they had already outgrown
If you ever notice any of these warning signs in a friend or loved one, let them know you are there for them, believe them when they choose to tell you their story, have open communication, and let them know that they can reach out to our Crisis Line 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-572-4031 or 940-387-7273.
Eight out of ten victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator, which means that there could be dynamics involved that you are not aware of. If the sexual assault was recent, you can always encourage the survivor to call 911, but it is important to understand that it is their choice whether to report their assault or not. Remember that your role as their support system is to believe them and help them access resources, but it is not to take control of the situation or tell them what to do.
You can learn more about the warning signs and what sexual assault is by visiting both the TAASA and Rainn websites linked below.
The following information is provided by the Texas Council on Family Violence:
Per statistics from Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV), within the last five years, 691 Texas women have been killed from domestic violence. In 2017, over 71,000 survivors received services from a family violence program. Sadly, in Texas, 41% of survivors needing shelter services were put on a waitlist because all shelters were already full.
The funding for family violence centers, unfortunately, has failed to address the growing population’s needs for survivors in Texas. “Every day, shelters and support programs for survivors must make maximum use of scarce resources to save lives. Critical services are needed to make our communities across the state safer” says TCFV.
TCFV are advocating for survivors every day at the Capitol. Per a TCFV Rep, it is our voices that will make their efforts successful. At the end of this month, TCFV will be holding a press conference and delivering postcards to legislators. These post cards contain a simple message directed at your elected official: make funding for family violence services a top priority.
Please take a moment to complete a postcard by clicking on the button below, as well as sending the link to everyone in your professional and personal networks. It takes less than one minute to fill out a card, but the impact of that one minute can be lifelong for survivors of family violence.
This information was provided by a representative from the Texas Council on Family Violence in regards to their Purple Postcard Campaign.
March is Women’s History Month, or as we like to say here at Denton County Friends of the Family, Women’s Herstory Month. We think this is the perfect opportunity to look back at the history of the Battered Women’s Movement in Texas and celebrate how far we have come!
If you are a volunteer who has completed orientation, then you may have already heard this story. Martha McWhirter opened the first shelter for battered women in Texas in 1870, which closed in the late 1890’s early 1900s. Martha was a devout woman who encouraged other women in the community to be more empowered in their lives and less dependent on their husbands, especially if those women were in abusive marriages. Her reasoning wasn’t simply to protect women from their abusive husbands, but also to show that women could run a business and earn a livable income, something unheard of at the time. The shelter started out as a religious prayer group of sorts, where they not only prayed for the end of violence at the hands of their husbands, but also for the sanctification of themselves. After Martha’s refuge closed there wasn’t another shelter in Texas until 1977.
Over 100 years after the first shelter opened, in 1977, Nikki Van Hightower helped open a women’s shelter in Texas, called the Houston Area Women’s Center. Ms. Van Hightower, a leading member of the women’s movement of the early 1970’s, was appointed to the office of Women’s Advocate in 1976 and was called the “best-known feminist” in Houston according to Women On The Move Texas.
In 1980, just 3 years after the Battered Women’s Movement had resurfaced, Dr. Fran Danis was a driving force behind the opening of Denton County Friends of the Family. As the first Executive Director and vocal advocate for victims in our community, she brought Denton the first and only shelter for those impacted by domestic and sexual violence. Dr. Danis continues to support the work of Denton County Friends of the Family. She is a woman of Herstory, as her efforts have helped save thousands of lives here in Denton County. Without her vision to open our doors, we wouldn’t be able to provide all the services we do, like play therapy, group and individual therapy, counseling, advocacy, legal services, and so much more. She had a vision and it continues to grow and blossom from the work of all those employed at DCFOF and all those who have interned and volunteered here.
All of these shelters have one major commonality (besides the population that they served) which is that they were all opened by women. Martha McWhirter in 1870, Nikki Van Hightower in 1977, and Fran Danis in 1980. A common theme you hear today is “Women Helping Women” and this theme is woven throughout the battered women’s movement: beginning with these women of Texas and their fight to end domestic violence and provide refuge for those seeking shelter. These are just three women who have made a positive impact on the Battered Women’s Movement, but there are millions more who are continuing to support and fight for the end of violence against women.
This month, we invite you to share with us the women you know who either made an impact on the betterment of women’s lives in the past or those who are currently making #herstory. We are all helping to lead the way to a better future, so let’s celebrate those who have come before us and those who are with us today - those voices we can help lift up and make all the stronger. Share your #Herstory on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag/pound sign #dcfofherstory.
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in our community will be impacted by domestic violence. As the sole provider of services for the victims and survivors in our community, we know these numbers to be tragically accurate. In 2018, we served over 4,000 women and children seeking help across Denton County and had an average of 200 brand new clients walk through our doors every month. While it is heartbreaking to know that there are so many in our community that are suffering at the hands of someone that they should love and trust, we know that these high numbers are actually a good thing. It means that our neighbors and friends know where to go for help, and are asking for help when it is needed. For too long there has been a culture of silence and shame around family violence and sexual violence. That is no longer how our community views these crimes, and we have our partnership with community leaders to thank for it. One of the opportunities to make an impact on our community is to become a DCFOF Impact Maker Annual Partner. To support DCFOF in 2019, our Annual Partner donated $10,000 to go back into the life-saving services provided to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
DCFOF's 2019 Impact Maker Annual Partner is Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers (CRC). CRC is a Family Law firm that opened in 1998 and has served the community ever since with high-quality customer service and a client-focused approach. One of the things that make Denton County feel like home to the partners is the strong sense of community and connected spirit of its members. In that same vein, CRC has chosen to make 2019 a year to give back to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the community in need of support.
“Denton County Friends of the Family has played a huge part in my professional life, and the personal lives of several friends, family members, and clients since our firm came to Denton more than 20 years ago,” stated CRC founding shareholder,Duane L. Coker. “Their positive impact in our area is impossible to measure. We are thrilled to be a part of allowing that impact to continue in the lives of those served by DCFOF and to partner with such a great organization.”
As the sole provider in Denton County of lifesaving services to those affected by relationship violence and/or sexual assault, DCFOF has an important role in the community. Kelly Robb, CRC shareholder reflected: "I have over 15 years of experience in Family Law and one of my areas of focus is child custody cases and cases involving Child Protective Services. There is nothing more devastating than a child in the middle of a sad, and often dangerous, situation. Duane, Jacqueline and I want to do everything in our power to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children receive the services they need to find safety, hope, healing, and justice. We are excited to be partnering with Denton County Friends of the Family as their Impact Maker Annual Partner; together we can make our community a safer place!"
"Denton County has been my home for almost my whole life and I am passionate about making it the best community it can be," continued Jacqueline Cannon, shareholder at CRC. "As a practicing Family Violence attorney for 11 years, I know that the tragic crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault happen far too often, even in our own backyard. That is why Duane, Kelly and I have decided to take a step toward addressing this issue in our community by being Friends of the Family's Impact Maker Annual Partner. Together we strive to help those in need; both through our legal services at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers and through our support of Friends of the Family."
“In 2018 we served over 4,000 women and children at Friends of the Family,” says Toni Johnson-Simpson DCFOF Executive Director. “As Denton County continues to expand, so does the need for our services. In the last year, we have seen a 50% increase in children served with play therapy, a 52% increase in clients needing advocacy services, and a 24% increase in new clients coming through our doors. It is more important than ever to have strong partnerships like the one with Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers to continue to provide the quality and quantity of services to every person in need. I want to thank the partners at Coker, Robb & Cannon for their commitment to safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in our community.”