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Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and his wife, Erika Canales, on Friday, August 26, 2016, following a panel discussion that included Rep. Canales, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, hosted by the Texas Tribune at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.

Photograph By ALEX RÍOS

With one in three adult women in Texas having been victims of abusive men, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, says he will continue to support increased state funding for family violence centers, which provide shelter and support services to battered women and their children, while he continues to vote for laws that will punish batterers. “It’s real simple. In Texas, a man should never hit his wife or girlfriend, daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, any family member, or any woman or child,” said Canales, who is a member of the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. “I don’t care if such a wretched man is drunk, on drugs, angry, jealous, envious, narrow-minded, or just plain mean. In Texas, we will have a jail cell waiting for you.” Canales’ comments came as the nation was observing October 2016 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which included a proclamation from President Obama, who explained the importance of “shining a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.” The physical and emotional scars of domestic violence “can cast a long shadow,” Obama added. “Too many individuals, regardless of age, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, circumstance, or race, face the pain and fear of domestic violence. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we pledge to ensure every victim of domestic violence knows they are not alone, and foster supportive communities that help survivors seek justice and enjoy full and healthy lives.”

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With one in three Texas adult women victims of abusive men, Rep. Canales pledges continued support for at least $65 million in funding for family violence shelters, intervention programs

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

With one in three adult women in Texas having been victims of abusive men, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, says he will continue to support increased state funding for family violence centers, which provide shelter and support services to battered women and their children, while he continues to vote for laws that will punish batterers.

“It’s real simple. In Texas, a man should never hit his wife or girlfriend, daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, any family member, or any woman or child,” said Canales, who is a member of the crime-fighting House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. “I don’t care if such a wretched man is drunk, on drugs, angry, jealous, envious, narrow-minded, or just plain mean. In Texas, we will have a jail cell waiting for you.”

On August 24, 2016, Canales participated in a public hearing of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, which was held in Corpus Christi, held at the Del Mar College Center for Economic Development, 3209 S. Staples Street, Room 106.

“Three issues currently being considered by the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, whose chairman is Rep. Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi, for possible action next spring by the Legislature are the feasibility of utilizing GPS monitoring in protective orders as a tool to reduce family violence, studying programs and identifying best practices focusing on the intervention and prevention of family violence, and considering statutory changes needed to further deter the offense of family violence and domestic abuse,” Canales said.

Canales’ comments came as the nation was observing October 2016 as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which included a proclamation from President Obama, who explained the importance of “shining a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.”

The physical and emotional scars of domestic violence “can cast a long shadow,” Obama added. “Too many individuals, regardless of age, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, circumstance, or race, face the pain and fear of domestic violence. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we pledge to ensure every victim of domestic violence knows they are not alone, and foster supportive communities that help survivors seek justice and enjoy full and healthy lives.”

FAMILY VIOLENCE SHELTERS RECEIVED $56.9 MILLION FROM TEXAS LEGISLATURE

During the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, which was held from January to May 2015, state lawmakers appropriated $56.9 million to support family violence centers, according to Aaron Setliff, Public Policy Director for the Texas Council on Family Violence.

“This included core services like turning on the lights and buying food in shelters. For example, $3 million of that total supported above and beyond measures designed to address the particular and emerging needs of family violence victims. These included for instance legal services, economic options, mental health and prevention activities,” Setliff said.

In the upcoming 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature, which begins in early January 2016, TCFV is requesting $56.9 million as well as exceptional item funding of $3 million to support similar innovation, for a total of $59.9 million.

“In addition, Battering Intervention Prevention Programs (BIPPs) received $3.5 million. BIPPs represent Texas’ commitment to batterer re-education,” Setliff added. “When defendants plead guilty to an offense involving family violence, the law requires that if the court sends them to a program, it must be to a BIPP accredited program. TCFV seeks level funding for BIPP of $3.5 million for the 85th session.”

The Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) is one of the largest domestic violence coalitions in the country. According to its website, TCFV promotes safe and healthy relationships by supporting service providers, facilitating strategic prevention efforts, and creating opportunities for freedom from family violence. TCFV is a membership organization comprised of survivors, family violence service providers, business professionals, communities of faith and concerned individuals.

Among the legislative issues that TCFV is looking at for the upcoming 85th regular session of the Legislature are measures relating to protective orders, the manner in which law enforcement keeps and accesses data, and the overlap between child maltreatment and family violence, Canales said.

FAMILY VIOLENCE “CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE, AND IT DOES.”

Canales said he was particularly alarmed by a shocking development in Corpus Christi, where since 2014, 28 women have been killed in family violence cases, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, more than 100 women lose their lives in domestic violence murders each year.

“Libby Averyt, President and Publisher of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, in a June 28, 2016 commentary, did an excellent job in alerting all of us why family violence must never be ignored,” Canales reflected. “In her writing, she said: ‘Some people may shrug this off as something that could never happen to them. If that’s true, consider yourself blessed and then consider your extended family, friends and co-workers. Domestic violence knows no economic boundaries, no preferences in race, religion or geography. It can happen anywhere and everywhere, and it does.’”

Statistics provided by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Council on Family Violence demonstrate the statewide effects of family violence:

2015 Family Violence by the Numbers in Texas

• Women Killed: to be released in late October 2016
• Family Violence Incidents: 194,872
• Adults and Children Served: 69,107
• Adults and Children Sheltered: 24,391
• Adults and Children receiving nonresidential services (i.e., counseling, legal advocacy, etc.): 45,478
• Unmet Requests for Shelter: 15,869
• Hotline calls answered: 183,294
(24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-580-4879; if in immediate danger, call 911)

2014 Family Violence by the Numbers in Texas

• Women Killed: 132
• Family Violence Incidents: 185,817
• Adults and Children Sheltered: 23,311
• Adults and Children receiving nonresidential services (i.e., counseling, legal advocacy, etc.): 61,119
• Adults denied shelter (due to lack of space): 39%
• Unmet Requests for Shelter: 14,801
• Hotline calls answered: 185,373
(24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-800-580-4879; if in immediate danger, call 911)

ALMOST 40 PERCENT OF CALLS ANSWERED BY HIDALGO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES INVOLVE FAMILY VIOLENCE

Locally, family violence makes its painful impact felt, just as throughout the state and nation, Canales said.

“In 2014, 5,531 cases of family violence were reported to local enforcement agencies in Hidalgo County, according to the Hidalgo County Public Information Office,” said the House District 40 state lawmaker. “The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office responded to 2,053 calls for family violence incidents, which equates to 37 percent of the calls that were made to deputies.”

Canales praised county law enforcement and related community service leaders for helping draw attention to family violence and what is being done to fight it.

“Too often, crime victims, including those who suffer family violence, do not know they are not alone, that there are people with strength and integrity, such as our law enforcement officers and others, who will defend them and protect them,” said Canales.

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force, on Tuesday, October 4, 2016, commemorated Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the second annual “Purple Day” informational fair held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside the Hidalgo County Courthouse, located at 100 Closner Blvd. in Edinburg.

As part of “Purple Day,” area leaders held a news conference that featured comments by Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr., Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra, Cecilia Moya of Mujeres Unidas, and Yvette Castro, chair of the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force.

“Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides an excellent opportunity for Hidalgo County to demonstrate its support for the victims of domestic violence,” Rodríguez said. “Moreover, it is a key opportunity to educate the public about domestic violence and the prevalence of this epidemic.”

The fair included booths from several domestic violence support organizations, including Mujeres Unidas, Family Crisis Center, Angels of Love, CASA, South Texas Civil Rights Project, Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Victims Services Division, Starr County Crime Victims Unit, UT-RGV Police Department, Texas Victims Services Association, and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Crime Victim Liaison. Guerra, Cecilia Moya of Mujeres Unidas, and Yvette Castro, chair of the Hidalgo County Family Violence Task Force.

The event was free and open to the public. Participants were encouraged to wear purple in support of Domestic Abuse Awareness.

RECENT STATE LAWS TO PROTECT VICTIMS OF FAMILY VIOLENCE

Among recent state laws that were supported by Canales in the Legislature that dealt with protecting victims of family violence and punishing violent batterers were (Source: Texas Council on Family Violence):

SENATE BILL 743
Increasing Accountability for Repeat Protective Order Violators

Author: Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
Sponsor: Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville)

This bill adds a new section to the Penal Code, making two or more actions constituting protective order violations within a twelve month period chargeable as a third degree felony, with a penalty of two to ten years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

All too often, offenders violate protective orders repeatedly within short periods of time, including while awaiting trial for previous violations.

Prior to this change, each offense committed before a conviction was scheduled as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. Recognizing that some dangerous offenders may violate orders the victim has concurrently or those of more than one victim, this change does not require that the violation be of the same order or concerning the same victim.

This new law also makes the following chargeable as a third degree felony: two or more convictions of violation of protective order, two convictions of the new offense created by this new statute, or one conviction for violation of protective order and one conviction of this new section.

Adds Section 25.072 of the Penal Code; Amends Section 25.07 of the Penal Code. Effective September 1, 2013.

SENATE BILL 129
Expanding Options to File Protective Orders Safely

Author: Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
Sponsor: Rep. Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa)

Prior to this bill, family violence victims could file for a protective order only in the county in which either party resided. This bill adds the option of filing in the county in which any of the violence occurred, which allows the victim to keep confidential from her batterer her new county of residence.

Additionally, this change allows for increased prosecutorial efficiency by potentially combining the criminal prosecution with the protective order matter in the same county; victims also benefit in that they do not have to travel to multiple counties to seek justice and protection.

Amends Section 82.003 of the Family Code. Effective June 14, 2013.

HOUSE BILL 1606
Enhancing Stalking and Harassment Statutes

Author: Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso)
Sponsor: Sen. John Corona (R-Dallas)

This bill improves on changes to the stalking and harassment statutes accomplished in the previous session by removing the subjective element of stalking as it relates to the stalker and by linking stalking to the harassment statute.

As a result of this change, whereas the stalker would have previously had to actually intend the victim fear bodily injury to the victim, a family member or dating partner (or destruction of property), now the behavior will be judged from a reasonable person standpoint.

This addresses the reality that some stalkers do not actually believe their behavior would cause a victim to fear, yet any reasonable person would identify the behavior as one that would cause fear. The bill also makes repeated harassment (a class A misdemeanor) chargeable as stalking (a third degree felony).

Amends Penal Code Sections 42.07 and 42.072. Effective September 1, 2013.

SENATE BILL 130
Promoting Access to Protective Orders for Survivors in the Child Protective Services System

Author: Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
Sponsor: Rep. Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa)

This legislation originated as a recommendation of the Senate Bill 434 Taskforce on the Intersections of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence.

The bill clarifies that prosecuting attorneys, while still subject to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, may represent someone for a protective order proceeding while representing the Child Protective Services in another action involving the same party either concurrently or after the other action.

Amends Family Code Section 81.0075. Effective June 14, 2013

SENATE BILL 355
Requiring Child Support Information in Protective Order Applications

Author: Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas)
Sponsor: Rep. Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa)

This bill requires an application for a protective order to state whether the applicant is receiving “IV-D” (Office of the Attorney General) child support services.

The bill also requires the clerk to send the order to the Office of the Attorney General if the application notes an open IV-D case.

Amends Family Code Section 82.004 and Section 85.042. Effective September 1, 2013.

SENATE BILL 1360
Stopping Batterers from Abusing the Criminal Justice System

Author: Sen. José Rodriguez (D-El Paso)
Sponsor: Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown)

Overall, this bill addresses the manner in which batterers use the criminal and civil justice systems as a further method of power and control over their victims.

HB1360 creates rules of criminal procedure related to the legal concept of “forfeiture by wrongdoing”, increases the punishment for family violence witness tampering (from most commonly a class A misdemeanor to at least a third degree felony), and allows juries to hear more information about the relationship of the parties related to coercion in the guilt-innocence phase of a trial for family violence witness tampering.

Regarding forfeiture by wrongdoing, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that batterers who cause their victim not to be present at trial should not benefit from their own wrongdoing; when this occurs, otherwise inadmissible out of court statements and evidence may be allowed to prove guilt. Now Texas has rules of criminal procedure that govern the application of this legal concept.

Amends Penal Code Section 36.05 and creates Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 38.48 and 38.49. Effective September 1, 2013.

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Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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