Friendship of Women Inc. Working on Legislation for Domestic Violence Survivors

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POSTED: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 11:05am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 1:58pm

Friendship of Women, the center for prevention of family violence and sexual assault, in Brownsville is on a mission to help jump start legislation to protect survivors of domestic abuse if they take the law into their own hands. News Center 23's Na'Tassia Finley explains.

"Good morning, Friendship of Women, how can I help you?"

The non-profit organization receives about five-thousand calls a year to their emergency hotline.

"Are you a victim of family violence or sexual assault?" the operator asks of the person on the other end of the line.

While some of those women on the other end of the line simply need guidance on what to do and how to get away, others need a lot more help and actually come in to Friendship of Women.

"We had served 14-hundred clientele that came into our office with basically family violence and sexual assault," says Friendship of Women Community Educator, Sandy Cuevas.

Cuevas adds the majority of the clients they serve are predominantly victims of domestic violence.

"We do see that women repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to flee their abusers, and when we have a community that's not able or not willing to help serve or help protect victims, then we see that these women kind of take situations into their own hands and unfortunately might lead to death of the abuser," says Friendship of Women Batter Intervention and Prevention Coordinator, Daisy Lopez.

While Lopez says that intervention services like what Friendship of Women offers has made great strides, still more needs to be done to protect domestic abuse survivors.

"We seem to fall short really in the way we and which the criminal justice system responds to and punishes survivors of domestic violence,” says Lopez.

A statistic from the Federal Bureau of Justice states that 57-percent of women in state facilities experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse right before their incarceration.

In exactly one month from today, the third annual Violence Against Women Conference will be held at the Brownsville Event Center. Friendship of Women is hoping to bring a very powerful documentary and its director here to the RGV.

The documentary surrounds Debbie Peagler, a woman who was forced into prostitution and continually beaten by her boyfriend. After years of failed attempts to escape, she had two other men kill him. For her, it was the only way to finally escape. She however, was charged with his murder and sentenced to life in prison.

"The whole documentary starts up after legislation is passed in California in 2002 that allowed incarcerated domestic violence survivors to petition the court to have them relook at their case and introduce evidence of domestic abuse history which possible could have yielded a different outcome in their trial," says Lopez.

Since the documentary, which is only available for educational purposes has been released, five states have passed similar legislation; Texas however, is not one of those states. Friendship of Women is working towards that.

"This film we're hoping will be a great tool, to simply use as that, an awareness tool at every level. On our local level, on the state level and the federal level," says Friendship of Women Executive Director, Lillie Champion.

Getting the film and director here takes money though. Right now the non-profit organization is hoping the community and businesses will step up to financially support their efforts to make this happen. They’re looking to raise about three-thousand dollars. If you're able to help you can contact Friendship of Women at 956-544-7412 or go in the office located at 95 E. Price Rd. Suite C.

The victim featured in the documentary, Debbie Peagler, was granted release after her abuse history was reviewed by the courts. She had served over two-decades before her release. She died less than a year after her release from prison due to a chronic illness.

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