While most Texans are staying home to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19, many are struggling with a different kind of danger within their own homes.
According to a Center for Disease Control report on domestic violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physically abusive intimate partner violence. Domestic violence incidents typically increase during times of stress. Children are not exempt from these horrific abuses.
When attempting to escape intimate partner violence, many victims wait until they are alone before reaching out for help. When an abuser never leaves for work, that window of opportunity narrows; however, there are still people standing by to provide help, even in the middle of a pandemic. Some therapists and counselors are offering video- and phone-conferencing options to provide remote sessions. Domestic violence shelters remain open, albeit under social-distancing restrictions within safehouses. Many family law attorneys continue to offer phone and video consultations to keep clients and attorneys healthy while addressing clients’ immediate needs.
Court intervention remains an option for those seeking emergency relief from domestic violence. In most larger Texas counties, family courts are temporarily closed except for emergency hearings. Even under these restrictive settings, courts are available to consider applications for protective orders and temporary restraining orders—even as some courts are shifting to an online platform for hearings.
If you are in a situation where family or dating violence has occurred and is likely to occur again, you may qualify for a protective order and should seek legal help. Upon application for a protective order, you may be able to have your partner excluded from your home and ordered to stay away from you—and possibly your children—on a temporary basis until a final hearing. For victims seeking divorce, family law attorneys can ask the court for specific safety measures to remain in place while the divorce is pending.
Service providers have always had hotlines available, but many now offer video-calling or chat services and can provide valuable information about covering your tracks electronically when seeking help online. Below is a list of resources:
- In the greater Austin area, SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) has a 24-hour hotline at 512-267-7233; you can also chat privately through the SAFE website.
- In the Dallas area, The Family Place provides assistance to people affected by family violence through a 24-hour crisis hotline at 214-941-1991; they also offer FaceTime calls and confidential counseling via the doxy.me app.
- The Genesis Women’s Shelter provides North Texans with emergency shelter and counseling services and has a 24-hour hotline at 214-946-4357.
- Nationally, the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline provides crisis intervention services at 800-799-7233.
If things are dire, call 911. You may be able to quickly obtain a temporary emergency order of protection through the criminal court system and later apply for a longer-term protective order in civil court.
Please contact a family law attorney at GoransonBain Ausley if you would like more information about seeking help for domestic violence in a divorce or child custody context. We offer virtual and phone consultations during the shelter-in-place and work-safe COVID-19 orders.
 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf