BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Police say victims of domestic abuse in the Rio Grande Valley are often hesitant to press charges or leave their abusive relationships.
Mission Police Department spokesman Arturo Flores said that as an investigator he saw many cases where victims drop the charges on their abusers because the abuser is the main breadwinner.
ValleyCentral reached out to experts who could explain why.
Evonne Lopez, education and volunteer coordinator for Friendship of Women Inc., said that victims of domestic abuse are often hesitant to press charges because they are truly in love with their abusers and believe that they will change.
Although this is a big factor, Lopez also attributes barriers like food security, housing security and financial security as reasons victims give to stay.
“And there’s also even maybe this extra added pressure that they may feel or see from their children, because the children don’t really understand that they’re seeing that their family is being split up,” Lopez said.
Victims and survivors are the experts of their own lives, she said.
“They get to choose what their journey looks like,” Lopez said. “And so if they feel a certain way, and if they truly believe that the change is going to happen, or change has happened, or they’ve been convinced that that’s going to happen, they will drop the charges. But there’s also the other side of the coin is that they’re being coerced to do it.”
She said oftentimes victims are threatened to drop charges by their abuser who can threaten to expose their immigration status, make false claims to Child Protective Services and even kill them.
Domestic abuse cases
In the lower Valley, a recent case of alleged domestic violence proved to be more difficult than anticipated for law enforcement. The case is pending and all suspects are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.
However, in a previous case, the man was found guilty on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and assault on a family member causing bodily injury, according to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office.
For the district attorney’s office, the case was particularly difficult.
“[The man’s] girlfriend continued to be loyal to him throughout the trial and at some point threatened to disappear to prevent the State from making its case,” the DA’s office stated.
In another case out of McAllen, a woman carrying a baby tried to hug a police officer and stated to him, “Help me, he just beat me up.”
When police attempted to make contact with the man, who was observed to have blood on his hands, the woman began to scream and hug him and she would not let go of him, according to police.
She began to yell at the same police officer who she had just pleaded with to help her, saying, “Don’t arrest him because I love him,” according to a probable cause report from McAllen PD.
The man was arrested and booked Nov. 27, the police records indicated.
According to the report, she told police: “I’m not filling charges on [him] because I love him and he’s the father of my children.”
Advice for domestic abuse victims
Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner, according to the UTRGV Office for Advocacy & Violence Prevention. These are behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish or force them to behave in ways they do not want.
Lopez said her advice to victims experiencing any type of abuse is to find a support system and make connections with agencies that can help provide resources such as assistance with getting a protective order or restraining order or even assisting with any type of accompaniment to legal appointments or court appointments.
Her main message to victims is that it is not their fault.
“There are people that believe you and that there is support,” Lopez said. “I think a lot of the time as spectators outside of these relationships, we think it’s very easy to just go get help. But that entails a lot. And those dynamics are not something we consider. So, I think that letting them know that one way that they can get their power and control back is by utilizing their voice and making the choices that they want to.”
To contact Friends of Women Inc., call the 24-hour crisis hotline at (956) 544-7412.