Domestic Violence and Disaster Survivors
Stress from Disasters Can Lead to Violence
While survivors are usually consumed with meeting their basic needs, the stress associated with the aftermath of a disaster can be overwhelming. Moreover, the effects can be devastating for spouses and partners; this frequently results in domestic disputes and, sometimes, violence.
When addressing domestic violence, it’s essential to understand that physical injuries are not the only effects of domestic violence. Many survivors also suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Additionally, survivors may attempt to cope by using drugs or alcohol. Finally, survivors may also suffer economically as violence or the threat of violence causes them to miss work or lose jobs.
Children who witness or experience domestic violence respond in different ways. Some experience changes in their emotions and behavior, such as increased anger or fear and an inability to sleep. Additionally, child survivors may suffer long-term emotional effects, seek out drugs or alcohol, or develop unhealthy relationships. Other additional long-term effects include increased risk of suicide and reduced social and academic skills.
Also, be aware of other types of abuse, including financial abuse, threats to harm pets, destruction of cherished items and other property, or threats of deportation.
To assist you with serving disaster survivors and clients, here are some helpful and vital resources and tools:
How to Screen for Domestic Violence
The American Bar Association has an excellent resource for client screening. For over two decades, the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence has focused on policy initiatives and training for lawyers representing domestic & sexual violence survivors. Their mission is to increase access to justice for domestic violence survivors, sexual assault, and stalking by mobilizing the legal profession. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/
What to do when a domestic violence crime occurs to your client
A lawyer that focuses on just a client’s legal needs may be ineffective. Be aware of the resources available nationally and in your county; if the client experiences domestic violence, call 911 for law enforcement and emergency medical care. Remember, we are mandatory reporters.
Programs and Resources
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available for crisis intervention, safety planning, and referrals to domestic violence shelters and services 24 hours a day (800) 799-SAFE (7233). Live Chat, Spanish and TTY resources available.
Texas Health and Human Services has a domestic violence Program. It promotes self-sufficiency, safety, and long-term independence of adult and child domestic violence survivors and teen dating violence survivors. Through a network of service providers, the program provides emergency shelter and supportive services to survivors and their children, educates the public, and provides training and prevention support to various Texas organizations. All services are free, and there is no income verification for eligibility. For more information, visit https://hhs.texas.gov/services/safety/family-violence-program
Crime survivors’ Compensation (CVC) Program reimburses domestic violence survivors for certain out-of-pocket expenses that are the result of the crime. To be eligible, survivors must:
- Be a Texas resident or a U.S. resident who was a survivor of a crime in Texas,
- Report the crime to the appropriate law enforcement agency within a reasonable time,
- Cooperate with law enforcement.
CVC can reimburse for many types of costs related to domestic violence. These include but are not limited to medical expenses, counseling, loss of earnings, child care, and support loss. Domestic violence survivors may also be eligible for an award for rent and relocation assistance up to $3,800 to pay for moving expenses, utility deposits, moving vans, and rent.
In the Texas 2017 fiscal year, CVC made a total of $11.4 million in payments on 3,489 applications involving domestic violence.
To apply for CVC, the survivor can go to a local law enforcement agency. They should have a crime survivor liaison. They will explain the program in greater detail, provide you with an application, and help fill it out. The CVC program will send an application directly by calling 1-800-983-9933, or it can be downloaded for the website. Counselors and social workers with domestic violence agencies also help with applications as well as legal aid.
Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) services survivors of domestic violence can use to keep their home addresses confidential. The program provides a substitute address and mail forwarding service to these survivors and members of their households. ACP is only a portion of an overall safety plan. It is not a witness protection program or a guarantee of safety. Applicants may:
- meet with a local domestic violence shelter, sexual assault center, law enforcement, or prosecution staff member to discuss a safety plan and to enroll in the program, or
- submit an application to the OAG with a copy of the protective order or crime report.
To obtain an ACP application, please call 1-888-832-2322.
To get contact information for local domestic violence shelters, please visit the Texas Council on Domestic Violence website at www.tcfv.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Statewide Automated survivor Notification System (SAVNS) is a notification system that will update domestic violence survivors about their offenders who may still be a danger. SAVNS is a free service that provides information on jailed suspects/offenders and their scheduled release, incarceration, and upcoming court proceedings. This information, in English or Spanish, is provided through a single statewide toll-free telephone number: (877) TX4-VINE [(877) 894-8463] or through the VINE (Certified Vendor’s system) website at www.vinelink.com.
Pseudonym Form for survivors of domestic violence
Survivors of domestic violence can have their names removed from public files and records concerning the offense. These records can include police summary reports, press releases, and descriptions of judicial proceedings. To do so, survivors must complete a Pseudonym Form and return it to the law enforcement agency investigating the offense. NOTE: the pseudonym is only used in records concerning the crime. So, it does not apply to any other publicly available records. To download the Pseudonym Form and go to their website.
Texas Advocacy Project provides legal services, which is one of the most effective ways to stop domestic violence permanently. Texas Advocacy Project provides advice over the phone, support with do-it-yourself legal filing processes, as well as complete client representation.
Their experienced attorneys guide and advocate through the entire process, and the services are always completely free. For legal referrals and information, contact the Texas Advocacy Project domestic violence Legal Line at (800) 374-4673.
Child Support Help for survivors
The majority of domestic violence survivors say that they would like to pursue child support – if they can be safe. However, the child support process can present some risks for a survivor if they don’t know what to expect. The attorney general’s Child Support Division (CSD) recognizes that economic stability is critical to a survivor’s journey to a life free of abuse. As a result, CSD has partnered with the Texas Council on domestic violence (TCFV) over the past decade to enhance child support services’ safety and increase Texans’ awareness of their available resources. CSD and TCFV have jointly developed several resources designed to help survivors carefully assess the benefits and potential risks of pursuing child support and safely plan around the process. To get started, visit: www.GetChildSupportSafely.org