Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The City of San Antonio unveiled its comprehensive five-year plan to address domestic violence on Wednesday that includes an analysis of current gaps in services and prevention strategies aimed at stopping violence before it starts.
The City completed a comprehensive study on domestic violence following a Texas Council on Family Violence report that found the number of domestic violence deaths in 2018 in Bexar County – 25 – was nearly triple that of 2015.
Since spring 2019, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s newly hired domestic violence manager worked to identify gaps in programs by directly talking to people who have been impacted by family and intimate partner violence. The findings created the foundation for what is now a five-year plan to address domestic violence from a prevention standpoint, said Violence Prevention Manager Jennifer Hixon.
“We are looking at violence like all other health behaviors in the community that are preventable, and put together a plan that centers around addressing violence before it starts instead of after it happens,” Hixon said.
On Wednesday, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger presented the comprehensive plan to City Council, reviewing the six committees that will put the 2020 plan into action including a judicial committee, a committee for changes in law enforcement, and a committee for health care. She also identified six overall goals for the plan over five years.
The plan includes creating a crisis hotline, training nurses to help recognize signs of domestic violence, streamlining reporting among provider agencies, and giving free legal help to survivors, Bridger said.
“A year from now we will update the City on our results and talk about the plan for year two,” Bridger said, noting that not all of the goals will be addressed in the first year.
At a media briefing about the plan on Tuesday, Judge Peter Sakai, who created the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence to address rising rates of violence, said that the gaps will be addressed through “science, data, and metrics.”
“We are looking into evidence-based outcome programs because, if we are going to put money toward it, we want to know that it will result in a measurable outcome,” Sakai said. “In addition, experts have taught us that you need to also have therapeutic programs, more than just anger management.”
One new program that the City will implement is the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which teaches parents practical strategies to help them build strong, healthy relationships with their children and prevent problems from developing.
Bridger said the program is aimed at normalizing asking for parenting help.
“One of the most important aspects of this program is that it moves us away from saying parenting programs are for bad parents and viewing it with that stigma,” Bridger said. “It is creating a cultural norm in the community that positive parenting is important and all parents need help.”
The positive parenting program is one of the programs focused on stopping violence before it starts, Sakai said.
Another program the City is looking to strengthen in its first years is the ability for law enforcement to remove guns from the homes of people who have committed domestic violence offenses and violent crimes.
“We don’t have a clear process in place to ensure people surrender their weapons when they are court ordered” to do so, said Judge Monique Diaz, co-chair of the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence. “We are looking into what other communities have done to see how we can best address this.”
Additional future programming includes special programs that target domestic violence among especially vulnerable populations, such as immigrants and the LGBTQIA community.
Hixon said that while rising domestic violence and gun violence rates are not unique to San Antonio,” addressing them is a long-term undertaking.
“We laid out a five-year plan and we won’t have taken care of everything we need to do to [reduce rates of violence] in that amount of time,” Hixon said. “It’s not just one educational assembly that will do it. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s going to have to be a real investment by local partners to teach people relationship and conflict resolution skills, and that will take years of diligent work.”