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Family violence in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition to the health concerns that are most prevalent associated with COVID-19 there are additional concerns related to domestic violence that some people will unfortunately have to endure during this pandemic. If there are concerns and problems in your home regarding domestic violence or family violence, then you need to be able to have resources at your fingertips to turn to in the event that you need help. Having a safety plan that you and your family have acted upon to create in the event of an emergency is another wise decision to make. 

The state of Texas in Southeast Texas in particular has shelters for battered women and their families which may now have openings as the pandemic eases into its fourth month. Many of these shelters and advocacy centers are free of charge. I will not specify names of particular places, but you can contact the State Bar of Texas or go through their website to locate these facilities. I would recommend keeping their names and phone numbers inside of your cell phone in the event that you need to call upon their services. There are also national resources to take advantage of such as the national domestic violence hotline which can take your calls during this COVID-19 pandemic 

There are also ways that you can stay safe from an abusive partner or spouse during this time. For instance, in everyone's home there is a safe place for you to turn to in the event that someone in the home becomes physically violent. Bathrooms, the kitchen in the garage would be examples of places that you should not turn to in these situations if it can be helped at all. The reason being that these places have many sharp objects and hard services that can be used as weapons against you or your children. 

A domestic violence prevention checklist 

I will note that I am not a domestic violence counselor or expert in that field. However, I am a licensed attorney in the state of Texas who has experience helping people who have become victims of domestic violence and assault. I would like to share some of the tips that I have learned in my time representing clients here with our law office. This list should not be thought of as being exhaustive in nature, but it is a good place to begin.

First, you should consider asking friends and family members to help you locate resources if you are not comfortable doing so yourself. For instance, if your spouse checks you are Internet history and you do not want him or her to see that you were looking at websites that can assist in the event of a domestic attack then you can ask family or friends to do this work for you. There are many resources available on the computer and elsewhere and if he shares as much of your circumstances as you as you are willing to with your friends and family, these folks are in a position to help you.

Second, you cannot seek assistance from anyone unless you let him or her know that you are being abused or that you believe you're in danger of being abused. It can take a great deal of courage and fortitude to come forward with this information. It may be very uncomfortable to share something like this with other people however, it can be to your great benefit for you to come forward in this way. You do not know what kind of help another person can provide you with unless you speak up and make them aware of your circumstances. 

3rd, you should become aware of your surroundings as best you can period since we are all located in our homes right now due to the stay at home orders that are currently in place it is likely that any event that would take place would be there as well. We've already discussed how the kitchen; the bathroom and the garage are places that you should avoid during a domestic violence incident. If there are guns in the home and you should do your best to know their location and whether or not near attacker has access to them period.

Secondary steps to help plan for a domestic violence incident

Once you have made others aware of your circumstances and studied your surroundings to best ensure your safety and that of your children, you should keep your belongings as organized as possible so that you can gather them in a moment’s notice in the event that you are under attack from a spouse or partner. This means your purse, your wallet, and car keys they should all be stored together so that you can grab them quickly and leave the home if necessary. This means also keeping gas in the car so that you can make a quick getaway if need be.

Keep a change of clothes for yourself and your children in a bag and store that bag in a private place so that you can grab that on your way out the door. Your Social Security cards, birth certificates for yourself and your children and your driver’s license are helpful documents to keep handy. You do not want to leave those unattended in the home for an extended period of time if you have to leave. You can also make copies of these documents and store them in the cloud or on a virtual drive. If nothing else, make copies and present them to friends or family that you can trust.

Plan with friends and family for a worst-case scenario. If you need to contact one of them in the event that you feel that a dangerous situation is developing at home be sure to plan out some identifiable phrases or words that you can utilize to tip them off without alerting your spouse or partner that you are contacting someone out of fear for your life. You should also teach your children to call 911 In the event that they see a dangerous situation is developing. Based on their age you should give your children additional responsibility in this regard. 

Some less common items that are very important but may not be considered as readily that are essential include medication for yourself and for your children , any cash that you can get your hands on as well as food and water if he if you need to leave the home and don't have a place to immediately turn to. There are phone numbers that you can contact during the COVID-19 pandemic that can help you gain information regarding community resources but detail in food, clothing, and shelter. 

Avoid being indoors if at all possible 

it is easier said than done right now considering that not only are we understand home orders but that it is becoming the hottest part of the year but if you can remain outdoors as much as possible that will be preferable. The reason I give you this advice is because there are more methods of exit outdoors than there are indoors. In the event that a spouse or partner becomes violent or abusive to you or your children it is theoretically easier to get away from that person outside than it is inside. You can be locked inside of a room or inside your house if you are inside. Your avenues of escape are not as easily prescribed outdoors. 

Another factor to consider is that the longer you are inside with someone the more likely you have to be engaged in conversation or argument that may lead to violence. People are at wits end regarding this shut down and are feeling stressed out and anxious. It would not take much for a disagreement over something trivial to become violent or to at least escalate to the point where you feel like you are in a situation where violence may occur. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe that violence may occur, it will be wise for you to leave the home take your children and do something physical outdoors. Could you take your children to the park for the afternoon? Or to the local swimming pool? Even if it is a little warm outside it would sure beat being stuck in the home with someone who may turn abusive at the drop of a hat. 

While we are talking about how you can prevent domestic disputes by being outdoors you could spend part of that time outside preparing your vehicle for a get away from the home if need be. This can be done by doing things as simple as keeping your car properly maintained such as changing the oil and keeping your gas tank full so that even if you are able to get into the car with your family that you are able to leave add a moment’s notice if need be. 

Where will you go if you are in trouble? 

All the advice that we have provided to you in this blog post so far will not do you much good unless you have a definite place that you can turn to for safety and comfort upon leaving your home. You can make plans to leave your abusive husband, wife, or partner and stay at a shelter or friends’ home. What you should not do is share with your abuser that you are planning on leaving the home. It is likely that doing so would cause him or her to become angry and even more controlling that he or she has already shown themselves to be capable of. 

Once you have successfully left the home with your children and have nailed down a place for you to stay for the near future you need to figure out what next steps you are going to take to protect yourself and your family during this time. If it is a long-term relationship that you are a scaping then you should know that your family and friends are available to you to lean on as you work up the courage to leave this relationship. Many people tell themselves at the violence will subside if they simply give the situation enough time and room to breathe. However, it is unlikely that the abusive relationship will change in that your abuser will stop acting in these ways. 

There are simple things you can do to protect yourself upon leaving the home. For example, if you have social media that specifies where you are making posts or updates from be sure to turn that feature off. It is probably smarter to just avoid social media especially in the first few days that you have left your home after experiencing violence. Passwords need to be changed on social media, email, bank accounts and any other accounts that you believe he or she may have access to through a home computer or cell phone. 

Once you feel safe, I would contact a family law attorney and discuss whether or not obtaining a protective order, temporary restraining order or a divorce is appropriate for you at this moment. Even while you are working the legal end of the situation, it is wise to contact police and make them aware or what is happening in your home. If you file a police report be sure to get the information of the officer taking your report and request that a copy of the report be made available to you. These reports are potential evidence in a protective order or divorce case. 

Questions about Texas family law and domestic violence in relation to COVID-19? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material shared with you today in our blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week in person, by phone, or via video to answer your questions and assist you with whatever circumstances are relevant to you and your family. Our office takes a great deal of pride in serving our community and in representing our neighbors: people just like you. 

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