San Antonio Express News: Opinion: Our plan to address domestic violence in Bexar County

domestic violence activism

On July 9, the Commission on Collaborative Strategies to Prevent, Combat and Respond to Domestic Violence was formally created. This is a community and stakeholders collaboration focused on addressing gaps in the system. The recommendations of the commission will include goals to be implemented within the year, and the commission has long-range goals that will take a three- to five-year plan.

To accomplish our goals, I (Peter Sakai) appointed the Monique Diaz, 150th District Court judge, and Colleen Bridger, assistant city manager for the city of San Antonio and former Metro Health director, as the commission’s co-chairs. We have created and appointed committees along with chairs to identify stakeholders in the areas of the judiciary, prosecution, law enforcement, health and hospitals, nonprofit agencies, policy and education. This will be a multidisciplinary and multidimensional, cutting edge and innovative approach to address the complex and complicated issues of domestic and family violence.

First and foremost, we wanted to respect and recognize all the hard work and efforts by the individual organizations and systems that deal with the victims of domestic and family violence. Our community truly has dedicated and determined workers and leaders that provide protection and healing for the victims and perpetrators. Notwithstanding their efforts, we heard and took to heart the emotions and outcries of the victims at the town hall meetings that U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett held in this summer. It was clear from their voices that they did not feel they were being heard or given dignity and respect.

Second, we needed to come together to address the gaps in our systems and we needed to figure out why victims felt that they did not have a voice and where the system failed to protect them. This has required all stakeholders from judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, probation officers, doctors and nurses, community advocates and volunteers, and even our legislators at the federal, state and local level, to look at themselves and self-evaluate our own efforts. Could we do things more effectively and efficiently as a process? Could we be more compassionate and caring when we are so exasperated and frustrated? Could we do a better job even when we are tired and worn out? All tough questions for us to answer.

Third, we wanted a plan, a blueprint, which specified goals that could be accomplished within the year so the community could see the fruit of our hard work and efforts. We wanted to identify and outline long-term goals so that this was not a plan to be put on a shelf or considered a success without action and outcomes. We have demanded that metrics and analytics be used to measure our successes and our shortcomings. We are going to use assessment tools and risk analysis so we can implement evidence-based programs. We simply want to be smart and savvy.

Fourth, in order to achieve our specified goals, we recognize the importance of community involvement in the process. The commission will be hosting quarterly community listening sessions to give updates and listen to feedback from members of the community. We will also be hosting monthly Facebook live sessions. This commission is not ours. It is yours. We cannot make this plan and this work real without everyone in the community joining us with their knowledge and resources.

In conclusion, domestic and family violence has been an age-old problem that our community has had to deal with. There is no doubt that domestic and family violence directly correlate and tie back into child abuse and neglect, teenage dating violence, bullying and criminal assaults and homicides. We, as a community, must recognize that the problem be addressed as a public health issue that requires all stakeholders take a multidisciplinary and multidimensional approach. It will require financial commitment and capital to support and create the programs necessary to carry out the goals and recommendations of this collaborative commission. The key to success will require courage and commitment by all stakeholders to step up to protect and heal the children and families of our community from domestic and family violence. We are proud to announce that our community and its citizens are ready and willing to step up to meet the challenges and obstacles. That is what makes San Antonio and Bexar County special and separates us from other communities. God Bless the children and families of our community. May we keep them safe and secure.

This story originally appeared in the San Antonio Express News, you can read it here.

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