LOCKHART, Texas (Nexstar) — Texas teenagers are the focus of an initiative to combat domestic violence.
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has partnered with law enforcement agencies in Central Texas on an information campaign targeting high school students. They spoke to student-athletes from rural Lockhart and Luling.
“You look around at any community, it doesn’t matter whether it’s in Austin, a large metropolitan city, or a little old Luling, this is something that affects any and everyone, and it’s something that everyone can do something about,” Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center director of community partnerships Melissa Rodriguez said.
Nova Vela’s knows the trauma of domestic violence. Her sister, Linda, was killed by the man she was in a relationship with in what police believe was a murder-suicide on Dec. 27, 2017.
“Domestic violence is real,” Vela told the students on Thursday.
“I didn’t think what you see on TV or movies about domestic violence or controlling behavior would happen in my family or happen to us,” she said.
Rodriguez, who has advocated for domestic violence survivors for 17 years, said nationally, one in three teens has reported emotional or physical abuse.
“When you hear domestic violence people often just talk about married couples, but the truth is this starts way earlier,” she explained. “Those behaviors, those bad and unhealthy habits, they start in the early stages of dating.”
Caldwell County Criminal District Attorney Fred Weber said he hoped the students would influence their peers to speak up about what they see and hear in their circles of friends.
“What they learn in high school or as young people, they carry with them to adulthood,” Weber, a prosecutor for more than two decades, said. “It’s very important that we make them realize just how serious of an issue dating violence is and when they see it happening that they do something about it.”
Weber said he has noticed an increase in domestic violence cases, but he is not sure whether that stems from it is happening more or it is being reported more.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I think we are seeing more cases because just like the program we had here today, I think more people are stepping forward. They understand that this is not something that needs to occur behind closed doors. The right thing to do is to step forward and become involved.”
If you or someone you know is facing a domestic violence situation, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by phone at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.