United Way presents: Empowering families with strength and healing while battling domestic violence

Published 5:15 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

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By Dawn Burleigh

(Editor’s Note: This is part 18 of a 21-part series on the partners of United Way of Orange County.)

Governor Greg Abbott, on Friday, issued a proclamation in recognition of Sexual Assault Survivors Day in Texas. House Bill 2298, authored by Representative Tan Parker during the 86th Legislative Session, established January 28th as Sexual Assault Survivors Day in Texas. This day is a time for Texans to come together to build awareness around the issue of sexual assault and to recognize the courage of survivors throughout the Lone Star State.

Family Services of Southeast Texas offers a facility where women and children can stay while they prepare to make a fresh start apart from their abuser.  Not only are housing needs met at the shelter, but residents are also provided with meals, access to libraries and computer labs and age-appropriate play areas for children.

Family Services of Southeast Texas has partnered with United Way of Orange County, Texas for several years.

“They were partners with United Way when I joined in 2016,” Executive Director Deborah Tomov said.

The shelter is a 65 bed unit which houses women and children in Beaumont. The facility also has a 20-bed shelter in Jasper.

“From there the next available shelter is in Lufkin and then Houston,” Tomov said.

The Beaumont shelter served 361 persons last quarter, 25 percent were Orange County residents. Half of those served were children ages 17 and under.

Every nine seconds a woman is abused. Often, she is not the only victim as many times there are children in the household as well.

Also offering the Battering Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) is specifically for family violence offenders and lasts for 18 weeks, the goal is to heal the whole family.

“We are not hear to break up a family, but to heal the family,” Tomov said. “While treating victims of domestic violence we are also keeping the abuser acountable.”

BIPP walks a person through the scenrio to where they are at now as batterers learn to understand their behavior as a means of controlling their partner and focuses on educating the batterer on the nature of family violence, changing beliefs and attitudes that lead to violence, and reinforcing strategies to develop an equal and supportive relationship.

“Without United Way, we would not be able to serve as many people,” Tomov said. “They help us to be able to go the extra mile for our clients.”

Clients such as victims of domestic violence sexual assault and sex trafficking.

When the pandemic began in 2020, the hotline received more calls but not as many came to the shelter.

“When they did come in, the injuries were more severe,” Tomov said. “There has been an uptick in the numbers due to covid.”

The center is also working with local law enforcement for educating patrol officers on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We meet with them at shift change, once a quarter, for ongoing training,” Tomov said. “It helps train rookies and ensures the officers have a cell phone number to reach out for forensic interviews.”

Due to recent legislation, victims of sexual assault must have an advocate present during a forensic interview.

“This training also helps us to be able to coordinate transportation better between Orange County and Beaumont,” Tomov said. Currently, public transportation is not available between the two counties.

For more information or to ask for help call the 24-Hour Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline 409-832-7575 or 1-800-621-8882.

To make a donation to United Way of Orange County, visit https://tinyurl.com/mvb46fy7