New documentary, study put face on family violence

A gripping documentary and a new report on family violence in Texas helped put a face on the grim statistics of domestic violence during a recent awareness event at Verizon's corporate office in Irving.

The report, titled "Honoring Texas Victims: Family Violence Fatalities in 2009," details the murders of 111 Texas women.

"What has struck me the most about this report is how many others were involved," said Gloria Terry, president of the Austin-based Texas Council on Family Violence, which issued the report.

Twenty-seven of the killings happened in front of children, grandchildren and other family members, including a 9-month-old baby.

The women ranged in age from 13 to 83, and most were 20 to 40.

The Houston area had the most deaths, 21. Dallas-Fort Worth was second, with 20.

A 45-minute documentary, Telling Amy's Story, followed the case of Amy McGee, a Verizon Wireless employee in State College, Pa., who was shot in the head at point-blank range by her husband.

It aired last month on KERA, and another airing is planned in the spring. Mariska Hargitay, star of NBC's "Law and Order: SVU" provides the introduction.

The Verizon Foundation's involvement includes underwriting the documentary, distributing more than 7 million recycled cellphones to domestic-violence survivors and contributing more than $15 million to assistance organizations.

"We felt this film should have a wider audience," said David Russell, Verizon's regional vice president of external affairs. "We've got about 13,000 men and women who live and work here. If you have employees, you probably have some who are dealing with this."

In Tarrant County, hot line calls are up 10 percent in 2010, according to Mary Lee Hafley, CEO of SafeHaven of Tarrant County. By year's end, the agency will have taken more than 50,000 calls from women seeking help for spousal abuse.

"The more people are calling, the more people will come in and get help to be safe," Hafley said. "I did see one statistic that indicates that 65 percent of all assaults and homicides are rooted in domestic violence."

SafeHaven has 174 beds countywide for women fleeing violence and has kept up with the need so far, Hafley said, but more money could accelerate prevention and education efforts.

"Beyond that, what we need is for Tarrant County to talk about this issue, to face it and discuss it," she said. "We need men to talk about this and to hold other men accountable."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

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