By Maggie Kiely
The Eagle, Bryan, Texas.
Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons announced on Monday a new county program aimed at curbing domestic violence by battling it from the inside.
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Called “Cut It Out,” Parsons said the goal of the program, which has been implemented in communities nationwide, is to provide training for local hairstylists and staff on how to identify and approach victims of domestic violence who enter their shops.
So far, more than 115 hairstylists have received training from prosecutors, who say the goal isn’t to get more people in prison, but to keep more people safe.
In Brazos County, half of violent crime cases consist of instances of domestic violence, Parsons said.
Gloria Terry, CEO of the Texas Council on Family Violence, said 119 Texas women between ages 17 and 85 were killed last year by domestic violence, which equated to 186 children or adult children losing their mother.
In Texas, 31 percent of people, the majority of whom were women, reported being severely abused at some point in their lives, according to a report from the council.
“Domestic violence is invisible in plain sight,” Terry said, adding programs like “Cut It Out,” which encourage awareness and communication about the issue, are crucial to combating domestic violence.
Each year in Brazos County, more than 400 women and children are served annually through the services of Phoebe’s Home, a local organization run by Twin City Mission that offers free assistance to victims of domestic violence.
Heather Colford, assistant manager at Funky Cheveux, said when she heard about “Cut It Out,” she “thought it was genius.”
Colford said she witnessed domestic abuse firsthand, as her mother was a victim of physical and mental abuse.
“Sometimes, the emotional and mental abuse is worse than the physical,” she said. “It gets to a point to where you believe what the person is saying.”
Erin Rivas, a receptionist at Funky Cheveux, agreed, saying she knows women who have been severely mentally abused, but may not view it as domestic abuse because there is no violence.
Because verbally or mentally abusing someone doesn’t typically rise to the level of a crime, Colford and Rivas said they believe their role is just as vital when it comes to supporting victims of non-physical abuse.
Both of the salon employees said that, after the training, they feel equipped to assist a victim.
While the statistics and preventive programs are focused on women because they make up the majority of domestic violence victims, men are subject to family assault as well.
In Brazos County last year, 12 percent of domestic violence victims were men.
Jessica Escue, an assistant district attorney, said the cases involving male victims also often involve a deadly weapon. In those cases, she said, it’s not uncommon for female abusers to attempt to use their cars as weapons against their victims.
Of the felony family violence cases disposed of in 2013, 23 percent were for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, 32 percent were for assault with a prior conviction and 15 percent for assault by strangulation, according to data from the district attorney.