Recession Fuels Domestic Violence

By Kristi Nelson
|  Tuesday, Oct 20, 2009  |  Updated 7:45 PM CDT
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Domestic Violence Shelters, Programs Stretched Thin

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Shelters are stretched thin as the stress of the recession has led to more frequent and violent domestic abuse across the country, a North Texas family shelter says.

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Domestic Violence Shelters, Programs Stretched Thin

Experts say the stresses of the economic downturn have led to more domestic violence.
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Shelters and housing programs are stretched thin as the stress of the recession leads to more frequent and violent domestic abuse across the country, a North Texas family shelter said Tuesday. 

"When families are experiencing stress, regardless of what creates that stress, sometimes people's behavior becomes irrational and unpredictable," said Open Arms program director Lou Ann Pressler.

This year, Open Arms in North Richland Hills has seen a 40 percent increase in referrals from women and children who need transitional housing.

"As you start thinking about people being unemployed, people being underemployed, people being disappointed at the lack of success finding work, it makes women and children a lot more at risk," Pressler said.

Some women and children who've needed help recently have had to be turned away, because the program is at its capacity. For the first time in its 21-year history, Open Arms has had to initiate a waiting list.

"Our program has a limited number of beds or slots," Pressler said. "We usually house, on average, about 75 or so individuals every night, and that's what we have available."

According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 136 Texas women were killed by an intimate partner in 2008. That's a 30% increase from the year before. The youngest victim was 14. The oldest was 74.

"Shelters right now are as full as they've ever been in my experience," Pressler said. "So people end up just doing desperate things. Sometimes they're sleeping on friend's sofas, sometimes they're forced to sleep in their car."

One woman who got help from Open Arms encourages other victims not to give up.

"It may look like there's no hope, but it is. You can call one place and they'll give you a resource to another place," she said. "Just keep seeking help. Don't go back. That's not worth it."

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