In a world with no shortage of things to fear, it’s tempting to just stay home and avoid risk. Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, though, is a reminder that home isn’t always a safe haven.
The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a Pasadena-based organization that addresses domestic and sexual violence, serves the Baytown area through an office and telephone and online services.
The organization announcing this year’s awareness effort said that 40% of Texas woman and 35% of Texas men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
One in three teens will experience abuse from a dating partner while in high school.
Olivia Rivers, executive director of The Bridge, said need for their services increased during the pandemic.
With many people losing their jobs and many more working from home, she said financial pressures and substance abuse increased, both factors that increase prevalence of domestic violence.
Also, leaving home for school and work often gives victims the opportunity to reach out for help, and those avenues were eliminated or reduced for many people in 2020.
In 2020, she said, 101 Baytown area victims received services, which included 1,075 hours of advocacy, therapy and resources. The group’s hotline received 462 phone calls from survivors living in Baytown.
She said the number of domestic violence homicides in Harris County hit its highest number in recent years, with 32 women and five men killed. Three of those homicides were in Baytown, she said.
By contrast, the number of domestic violence calls to Baytown police declined in 2020. Those calls have increased in 2021, but are still below other recent years, according to Baytown police spokesman Lt. Eric Freed.
Baytown police have received 659 calls reporting domestic violence so far this year, he said. There were 605 such calls the same time last year.
Comparable year-to-date calls were 746 in 2017, 836 in 2018 and 930 in 2019.
More important than the statistics, though, Freed said people need to know the police department has advocates and resources available for victims.
Both The Bridge and the police department have a variety of services to offer victims of domestic and sexual violence—more than just shelter or a place to report a crime.
Reach out for help even if you’re not at the point of leaving the relationship, Rivers said.
“Most people are not ready to make that decision,” she said. In fact, leaving, or stating the intention to leave, is a risky time.
“Leaving an abusive situation can actually put someone in more harm than staying and getting the resources and information they need,” she said.
The greatest pressure on people to stay in an abusive relationship is financial, Rivers said.
One of the positive things to come out of the pandemic response is that organizations like The Bridge have more money available to help relocate victims to safe, affordable housing.
Along with that, The Bridge provides help in finding employment to be able to sustain that housing.
For someone at immediate risk of harm from sexual, relationship or domestic violence, or to report a crime, the advice is to get to a safe place if possible and call 911.
If there’s not an immediate threat, help is available.
Where to get help
Baytown Police Department
Victim Services Program: Call 281-425-1051 or 281-425-1050.
In-person services available for victims of violent crime and their families in person 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday at 3200 N. Main Street, Baytown. No appointment required.
• Assistance in making a report or filing charges
• Assistance in filing protective orders
• Resources that offer free or inexpensive services
• Safety planning
• Referrals to community resources
• Free cell phone for 911 emergency use
The Bridge Over Troubled Waters
24-hour hotline: 713-473-2801
Baytown office: 281-420-5600 at 1300 Rollingbrook Drive
Website and online chat: tbotw.org
• Emergency shelter
• Resource referral
• Children’s services
• Education and prevention