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Domestic violence is on the rise in Houston, advocate says at UH Law Center case training

Panelists provide insights to legal practitioners during the Domestic Violence CLE hosted by the UH Law Center.

Nov. 30, 2022 — The incidents of domestic violence are substantially increasing in Harris County, advocacy leader Maisha Colter noted during a case training hosted by the University of Houston Law Center.

“We have a problem in our local community,” Colter said, referencing the uptick in domestic violence fatalities in Harris County.

According to the Texas Council on Family Violence report, intimate partner homicides in Harris County rose by 24%, from 37 deaths in 2020 to 46 deaths in 2021.

Colter, the CEO of Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, advised CLE participants that often “domestic violence festers in secrecy” but involving the courts and law enforcement is one way to mitigate perpetrator behavior.

“Studies show that when a protective order is filed, even if it is not granted, that filing can help change the perpetrator’s behavior,” added Janet B. Heppard, 387th District Court Judge.

Richard Bell, Associate Judge for the 387th District Court, walked participants through the warning signs that lawyers and advocates should pay attention to when interviewing or asking questions around an incident for a protective order.

“Remember that victims of family violence are not always going to be apt to volunteer the fact that they are victims. Many of them have suppressed the traumatic events,” Bell said.

Bell, Colter and Heppard were on the first of seven panels for the program on “Domestic Violence: Training Lawyers and Judges to better handle cases involving abuse.”

Lawyers, judges and social workers provided insights to legal practitioners on how to identify domestic violence and understand the areas of law it impacts.

The speakers covered a range of topics from protective orders, evidence and predicates, trauma informed interviewing and trial preparation, case law, vulnerable populations and ethical considerations.

The event was supported by Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), the 280th Harris County District Court, the 387th Fort Bend County District Court and the University of Houston Law Center.

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