Dozens of community members went to Katy Christian Ministries’ Silent Witness event at Westland Baptist Church. The annual event honors those who lost their lives to domestic violence and those …
Dozens of community members went to Katy Christian Ministries’ Silent Witness event at Westland Baptist Church. The annual event honors those who lost their lives to domestic violence and those who are fighting against the problem in the community and included a proclamation from Katy Mayor Bill Hastings regarding the event.
“This proclamation recognizes that every one of our residents deserves to live and live free from violence and abuse,” the mayor said.
Chief Prosecutor for the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office Chad Bridges provided the keynote speech during the event which included silhouettes scattered throughout the church representing the victims of domestic violence who had lost their lives to abuse. Bridges said the last 18 months since the pandemic began has seen an increase in domestic violence as the pandemic created financial, social, health and other stresses for area residents. Bridges said that the 18-month period before the pandemic began in March 2020 saw about 3,500 cases of documented domestic violence in Fort Bend County alone. However, since the start of the pandemic, that number has jumped up to about 5,200 cases – a 50-60% increase.
“And because of this, my prosecutors are, tired and my police officers are tired, and my victim-witness advocates are tired, and they struggle,” Bridges said.
Bridges applauded his staff, law enforcement officers and victim advocates for not giving up despite the exhaustion they’re feeling.
Over the last two years, Bridges said the Fort Bend District Attorney’s Office has worked to change how first contact with potentially abused residents is approached. The DA’s office, law enforcement and other victim support groups worked with experts to innovate and modernize standard procedures for law enforcement, prosecutors and staff to help individuals dealing with violence in the home improve their situations.
First lady of Katy and director of Katy Christian Ministries’ Crisis Center Director Susan Hastings said in a follow-up interview that it is common for the victim advocates on her staff to get attached to the clients they work with. When a victim doesn’t make it out of their domestic violence situation safely, it hits staff members hard, she said. Management at the ministry was glad to have a program in place to help with difficult situations when a client is killed, she said.
“When that happened, I had several pastors come in and visit with the staff and pray with them,” Susan Hastings said. “I had some of our colleagues that are (licensed) counselors; they came in and met with all of us and we just worked through it and dealt with it together.”
Susan Hastings also said domestic violence is a difficult thing to pull clients out of. Many of the people her staff work with either grew up in a situation where that type of violence was the norm. Additionally, the level of mental control an abuser has over their victims is often overwhelming she said. As a result, the person being abused doesn’t fully realize how out of the ordinary their situation is, she said. KCM’s staff work to help victims recognize their situation and improve their lives.
“We want them to be able to know that that is not a normal way to behave with someone,” Susan Hastings said. “It is not love when they do that.”
Susan Hastings recommended that anyone seeing someone being abused immediately call 9-1-1 to ensure the victim’s safety. In less urgent situations, if someone believes someone is being abused, they can reach out to KCM through their two hotlines (281-391-4357 for domestic abuse and 281-693-7273 for sexual abuse). The ministry will then work to connect the victim with services and ensure their safety, including finding ways to ensure the person being abused can discuss things subtly with those working to help them. The main thing, she said, is to reach out and make sure they know they’re not alone.
“When they’re ready to get away from that situation, then they know we will be there for them,” Susan said.
At the end of the Silent Witness event, the names of those in Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties who died from domestic violence were read by representatives of Harris County Constable Ted Heap’s office while roses were placed in vases for each name.
Harris County saw 37 documented cases of death from family violence, followed by Fort Bend at seven deaths and Waller with one death. Texas saw a total of 228 deaths statewide, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.
KCM staff said they hope all those numbers decline.
“No more roses would be perfect,” said KCM Board President Patti Lacy.
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