October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I am keen to speak out on this important issue. Curbing domestic violence will require broad community engagement and I was proud to announce the City of Houston’s plans to raise awareness last week.
Domestic violence is not only an individual’s issue – it’s a community issue. Three out of four Texans report that they have personally experienced or a close friend or family member has experienced domestic violence. And that takes a toll on our whole society.
It’s easy to forget about domestic abuse crimes when they are not happening in our own lives. But domestic violence is incredibly common and most instances go unreported.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, economical or spiritual. It involves actions and threats of actions. Men, as well as women, can be victims of domestic violence. It can affect people of all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Houston Police Department has responded to 16,649 instances of domestic violence this year and has made 4,886 arrests. As of October, 25 murders in the City of Houston were the direct result of domestic violence.
The Houston Police Department seeks to reduce domestic violence through a three-fold approach: it trains police personnel, it educates the public and it investigates domestic abuse crimes. But to make sure domestic violence is reported, we need to do our part to spread information about the issue.
City of Houston employees and I have come together to acknowledge Domestic Violence Awareness Month in a number of ways. Nearly 6,000 city employees have worn purple bracelets, which have “Houston Area Women’s Center” printed on them. The bracelets are intended to be a conversation piece, prompting questions and comments on the subject of domestic violence. I have encouraged employees to wear the bracelets until the end of October, to tweet pictures wearing them and to discuss the reasons for wearing them with friends and neighbors. And last Friday, city employees and I joined the Houston Area Women’s Center in its Wear Purple Day.
The City of Houston has many resources available for victims of domestic violence, both through the Houston Police Department and through nonprofit organizations. In particular, the Houston Area Women’s Center is a fixture in Houston. Council Member Ellen Cohen served as its executive director for 18 years before being elected to public office. I was proud to support Council Member Cohen, Houston Area Women’s Center Executive Director Rebecca White, Heather Ramsey Cook from Congressman Ted Poe’s office, members of the Houston Police Department and members of Crime Stoppers last week when they announced the city’s efforts to address domestic violence this month.
I recognize that domestic violence is a problem and I am committed to using resources available through the Houston Police Department and other community partnerships, both to prevent domestic violence and to aid victim-survivors. We need to speak up and speak out to make a difference.
Annise Parker is the Mayor of Houston