SafeHaven releases second annual domestic homicide review

SafeHaven of Tarrant County, the county’s largest and most comprehensive domestic violence nonprofit organization, has released its second annual fatality review report coinciding National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in  October.

Tarrant County recorded 17 domestic fatalities in 2020, topping the previous high of 16 in 2016. Fatalities had decreased to eight in each of the last two years.

“This year, somehow more than those prior, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness that SafeHaven shares in this work with powerful collaborators here in Tarrant County,” said SafeHaven of Tarrant County President and CEO Kathryn Jacob.

“The pandemic has been devastating, obviously, and has had a ripple impact in ways we predicted but could not anticipate the specifics.  The 2020 report truly paints a picture of what that year meant for victims locally,” she said.

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According to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, incidents of intimate partner violence increased by 8.1% across the U.S. after lockdown orders.

The report was compiled by SafeHaven and several collaborating organizations including the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney, JPS Hospital Systems, and local police departments and includes details about the intimate partner homicides that took place across Tarrant County in 2020.

  • Twelve of the relationships involved couples who were dating, while five were married. Regardless of status, the majority of the relationships had ended prior to the homicide.
  • Most of the relationships had only lasted a matter of months, not years, and only four lasted five years or longer.
  • Most victims and offenders were between the ages of 41 and 65. The youngest victim was 21 and the oldest victim was 67. The youngest offender was 20 and the oldest offender was 62.
  • Five of the cases had a prior strangulation on record.
  • Fourteen of the cases had prior police involvement, including charges other than family violence.
  • Two of the cases had a prior protective order.
  • Nine of the offenders were gun owners (legal status unknown).

More than half of the deaths occurred in Fort Worth, but others were in Haslet, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Keller and Mansfield.

Nine of the homicides were caused by gunshot, four by blunt force trauma and four were stabbings. Three children died as secondary victims, – twins in utero and a teenage boy.

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One child was shot by an offender at the time of a homicide but survived.

SafeHaven is not holding public meetings during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month because of COVID-19 and said it cannot accept volunteers into its facility at this time.

“We hope to continue taking these safety steps for only a little while longer; life-saving measures don’t begin and end with our shelters. We want to continue doing our part to keep our community healthy and safe,” Jacob said.

With volunteer restrictions in place due to COVID-19, the organization is urging people to use their resources in ways that can help women and children impacted by domestic violence.

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“As always, but now more than ever, sharing your wallet and your voice are the two major ways you can help survivors remain safe in Tarrant County,” she said.

“SafeHaven promises our community to be good stewards of your generous investments in this work; and, when you use your voice to believe and assure survivors that they are not alone, this is not an isolated struggle, and that there are resources available, you are genuinely doing the very best thing in your power.”

SafeHaven has enabled thousands of women and children to rebuild safe, independent lives for more than 40 years. Vital services include 24-hour emergency shelters, a 24-hour crisis hotline, legal services, children’s programs, evidence-based prevention curriculum, and reformative services. With one in three women in Tarrant County experiencing domestic violence in her lifetime, SafeHaven’s no-cost services are crucial in ending domestic violence in Tarrant County, the organization said.