U.S. Attorneys from across the State of Texas gathered on Friday to announce more than $18 million in funding and grants awarded to Texas organizations on the front lines of the fight against domestic violence.
Three organizations in the Southern District of Texas — one of them in Brownsville — have received grants to combat domestic violence and to bolster the services provided to victims, as well as to increase resources available to prosecute violent offenses against women.
The boost in funding comes through the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women and is part of a federal initiative to assist the prosecution of domestic violence offenses in areas where the federal government does not have jurisdiction.
In order for the federal government to prosecute, there generally has to be a gun involved or the perpetrator must have prior domestic violence convictions, the attorney explained.
This initiative will provide more than $11.8 million in funds to the State of Texas to support law enforcement, prosecutors, victims service providers, and courts working to put an end to domestic violence, said Erin Nealy Cox, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas.
Another $1.7 million was awarded to cities and counties across the state to improve the criminal justice response to both domestic violence and sexual violence incidents. Authorities said $1.8 million will provide legal service to victims, and more than $1.5 million will be allocated to advocacy groups representing underserved populations.
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, Texas Council on Family Violence, National Violence Against Women Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium, International Association of Forensic Nurses, and Alliance for Hope’s Training Institute on Strangulation prevention were named by the DOJ to receive funding to assist these efforts both state-wide and nationally.
The Southern District of Texas, which spans an area including Houston, Galveston, Victoria, Corpus Christi, McAllen, Brownsville, and Laredo, is receiving funds for advocacy and outreach in underserved populations.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick announced that the office selected Friendship of Women in Brownsville to receive funding through its Rural Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking program.
The organization was contacted for a statement but did not respond by press time.
“This is an underserved community. It will establish satellite offices that will house different investigators, support services, provide legal advocacy and mobile advocacy to go out to our communities in some of our underserved areas,” said Patrick.
Patrick said the office can provide support in the form of involving federal agencies with greater intelligence capabilities like the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and their Crime Gun Strike Force, and in certain cases to get perpetrators off the street by investigating other violent offenses or things like drug and smuggling charges.
Right now, the funding is more important than ever. COVID-19 and the associated shut down orders have trapped some victims in abusive environments, and according to the attorneys, finding shelter is a particular problem right now.
Victims may be nervous to go to shelters where social distancing isn’t a certainty. In response, funding in identified areas will go towards transitional housing.