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204 people in Texas were killed by intimate partners in 2021

 Of the 204 Texans killed by intimate partners in 2021, almost a quarter were in Harris County.
Texas Council on Family Violence
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Of the 204 Texans killed by intimate partners in 2021, almost a quarter were in Harris County.

The number of deaths by firearm have nearly doubled in the past 10 years and accounted for 75% of the homicides reported in 2021, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to confidentially speak to someone 24 hours a day.

Over the past year, as the world has transitioned through the coronavirus pandemic and events like Winter Storm Uri, domestic violence has been one of the issues policy makers and advocates have paid special attention to. The idea: Mass disruptions to society make it harder for people experiencing domestic violence to seek help.

According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, the state saw 204 deaths caused by intimate partner violence in 2021. The figure marks a slight drop from 228 deaths the year before but is still a cause for concern among advocates.

Mikisha Hooper, a community response manager with the Texas Council on Family Violence, joined the Texas Standard to talk about the organization’s findings and how the issue of domestic violence has changed over the past few years. Read the transcript below or listen to the interview above.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity: 

Texas Standard: Are these 2021 figures final or preliminary?

Mikisha Hooper: These are final figures and our best count, searching through all of the data that we have available of what happened in Texas in 2021.

How is this information tracked? How did your organization get such precision when it comes to the scope of this issue? 

We do extensive media searches across all 254 counties in Texas, and we compare it to what was reported by law enforcement through the Uniform Crimes Report to DPS. We also do a lot of outreach to law enforcement. We have relationships with all the large urban jurisdictions to get data directly from them.

As you look at this data more closely, what sort of insights do you see? Our producer picked up on the fact that Harris County made up almost a quarter of all intimate partner homicides last year, something like 46 deaths. 

Yes, that’s true. And as we know, Harris County is the largest county in the state, population-wise. So they do have a number of deaths that we record each year.

But what accounts for the high rate of domestic violence deaths here in Texas?

What we’ve noticed over the last 10 years is that the number of deaths that are perpetrated with a firearm have nearly doubled, and they account for 75% of the homicides that we reported in 2021. And in Texas, we have laws on the books – as well as federal laws – that prohibit people who are convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm. What we don’t have enough of is enforcement of those laws and mechanisms for transferring those firearms away from people who shouldn’t have them.

Another figure that’s striking in this report: The data says that 44% of victims had taken steps to end the abuse. On the one hand, I suppose some might say, “well, that shows people are trying to improve their situations,” but I suppose others would point out just 44%. And why is that number so low? 

It’s probably low because we aren’t able to get a comprehensive understanding of every victim’s situation. But domestic violence is often related to wanting to have control over your partner and possessiveness. And so we often see homicides occur in those periods of time.

One event you specifically point to is the winter storm of February 2021. Why spotlight that event in this report?

From the research we know that periods of natural disaster, particularly, or a community crisis are dangerous for victims of domestic violence. So we heard about people who are using the conditions of the storm to withhold blankets and clothes and shoes and to force their partners into unsafe conditions. We also know that family violence programs across the state were impacted significantly; many experienced physical damage to their building and took months to recover. So that means the support systems that we need for survivors throughout the year were impacted.

I’m thinking about the fact that there are likely some listeners who are in situations themselves experiencing domestic violence. What would you say to them right now?

Thank you for raising that, because it can be very confusing and overwhelming. First of all, I would say that you don’t have to go through anything alone. There are resources across the state that are available to help you understand what you’re experiencing and then make a plan to leave safely. And you can go to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and speak to someone 24 hours a day, confidentially at 800-799-7233.

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Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sean Saldana