Domestic Violence, Urban Safety and Restorative Justice

Gloria Terry, executive director, Texas Council on Family Violence, presented an analysis of intimate partner fatalities in Texas. The council represents 100 direct service providers that serve 72,000 Texas women and others. 

She quoted statistics demonstrating how Intimate partner violence disproportionately affects women. According to her research, 158 women were killed in 53 Texas counties in one year, the highest number in the 20-year history of documenting deaths. Of the total, 77 died from gun shots. She also noted that nine others were injured, 19 family members killed, and 101 bystanders present. She added: “The bystanders were mostly children, which has a broader, longer term societal impact.”

“Our goal is to know when fatalities happen and why so that we can predict and prevent them,” Terry said. Terry represented the findings on a graphic image of Texas’ 254 counties with counties where fatalities occurred in white and those with no fatalities in purple. “Our goal is to turn the state purple,” she said. 

Safety in Urban Spaces

Kathryn Travers, director, Women in Cities International, Montreal, Canada, discussed the impact of urban violence on women, people with disabilities and indigenous people in Canada. “We go where it’s more complicated, but needed,” she said.

“Although crime is decreasing in many international cities, violence against women is constant,” she said. “Women feel less safe in public places than men in same spaces.”

Global strategies are reliant on people at the local level. She cited one example of elderly women in Quebec who wanted to go to parks, but they were afraid to visit alone. Audits revealing why they felt unsafe were shared with the local Parks Commission, which invited the women to contribute to a redesign. In Montreal, young women told the city what made them feel unsafe in transit stations, which resulted in changes to existing and proposed stops resulting in safer conditions.

“Urban planning of public spaces may seem daunting, but it can be done,” Travers said. Creative ways of speaking out include occupying public spaces where women are not expected and taking photos.  Technology is also improving the ability to share safety audits internationally.

Restorative justice

Martha Carmargo Sanchez, chief judge of criminal law in Mexico, leads restorative justice programs targeting young offenders. Her program incorporates the offenders, victims, families and the communities into training and mediation programs.

“Rather than ignoring teenagers who commit crimes, we work with them. So much of their behavior begins at home,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the cases we see occur because the offender led a life of violence.”

Offenders must accept and understand the pain caused by their actions and why they are punished. “Without understanding, it’s hard to break the cycle,” she said.

Trained mediators work separately with offenders, victims, neighbors and communities to reintroduce offenders to society. “The family is the most important pillar,” Carmago Sanchez explained. Institutions such as the church and government help teenagers with the structure and support that may not be available at home.

Carmago Sanchez and her team work with 26 teenage offenders and their families as part of the effort to reduce crime. Her model relies on five key tools – love,  support, companionship, limits and values.

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WOMEN’S POLICY FORUM   |      P.O. Box 11246   Fort Worth, Texas 76110