• Dallas County judges, lawmakers, others meet on how to keep guns from domestic abusers

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 26, 2014

    Dallas County judges, lawmakers, others meet on how to keep guns from domestic abusers

    June 20, 2014
    by Jennifer Emily and Sarah Mervosh
    The Dallas Morning News

    State and county officials are trying to make good on their promise to help keep guns away from domestic abusers.

    Many officials with the power to keep guns out of batterers’ hands met for the first time Friday for a brainstorming session on just how to do that. The meeting included seven judges, three prosecutors, local and federal authorities and a showing from three state representatives as well as Dallas City Hall.

    Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia called the meeting after The Dallas Morning News reported this month that Dallas County regularly fails to enforce laws that forbid convicted abusers and subjects of protective orders from possessing guns, even as other Texas counties have found ways to impose the law.

    “I have never been in a room with all of the players ... talking about an issue that is so important in the life of a victim of domestic violence,” said Paige Flink, who is executive director of The Family Place shelter and has long advocated for better gun-ban enforcement. “There’s not anyone that didn’t come.”

    Core concerns

    Friday’s biggest question was where would Dallas County store the 600 to 700 guns that officials expect to confiscate annually if they begin enforcing the law?

    With police and sheriff evidence rooms already taxed for space, criminal court judge Roberto Cañas suggested using a private facility that has already agreed to store the guns if the county buys a safe.

    Because of the questions about storage, judges say they’re hesitant to ask offenders whether they have guns.

    “We’re stuck with, what do we do if they say yes?” said Judge Os Chrisman, who is retired and sits part time on the protective order court bench.

    Once that question is answered, officials will need to decide how to confiscate the guns.

    Cañas said programs elsewhere tend to rely on the “honor system,” the honesty of the abuser or the victim about gun possession. He said Dallas County should strive for something more reliable to determine whether an abuser owns a gun, but it’s unclear how much more the law allows.

    Officials also will have to decide what they would do if an abuser refuses to surrender a gun voluntarily.

    While Friday’s meeting focused more on questions than answers, Cañas said that was a necessary step.

    “People will realize their problems are solvable,” said Cañas, who mainly handles family violence misdemeanors and stepped up to lead the gun confiscation effort after The News’ story. “The hurdles … we can jump over them or go around them.”

    Legislative options

    Anchia said he is ready to pursue legislative changes that could help put judges and police at ease about whether they have the authority to take guns away from abusers — but only if that’s needed.

    He said he will first examine whether a gun confiscation program could work by overhauling efforts locally.

    Aaron Setliff, policy director for the Texas Council on Family Violence, cautioned that an attempt to change the law comes with the risk of opposition that could ultimately “dial back” the existing firearms restrictions.

    What’s next

    Cañas will work to get federal grant money, funneled through the governor’s office, to help fund storage space. Dallas County has the first crack at about $36,000 but needs to respond to the governor’s office in the next few weeks, Cañas said.

    Friday’s group hopes to use the grant for a pilot program to confiscate guns in certain courts, such as the protective order and misdemeanor courts. Abusers could then turn their guns into the private storage facility, possibly in the presence of a police officer.

    And they plan to meet again in September.

    Read more at Dallasnews.com.

  • Dwell with Dignity Blogs about the Transformation at The Family Place Emergency Shelter

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 26, 2014

    Did you have a chance to see the beautiful "after" pictures from Dwell with Dignity's community project at The Family Place? Check out their blog from June 17 - INSTALL: The Family Place. DwD's blog highlights more about our facility, the families served along with our industry partners who made this happen. 

    Read more at http://www.dwellwithdignity.org/install-the-family-place/!

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline Releases Results On Use of Firearms in DV Situations

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 26, 2014

    Hotline Focus Survey Provides Firsthand Look at Intersection of Firearms & Domestic Violence; Highlights Need for Stronger Laws and Equal Protection

    June 18, 2014, Washington, DC – Today in Washington, DC, Rob Valente, National Domestic Violence Hotline policy expert presented highlights from a recent focus survey conducted by The Hotline on the use of firearms in domestic violence situations.  The survey revealed how the presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship intensifies the fear of abuse victims and escalates the violence directed towards them, regardless of whether or not the survivor is married, dating or being stalked by the abuser. Current laws offer protections for married victims of intimate partner abuse, but the same protection is not afforded to those who are in a dating relationship or those who are being stalked. Valente provided the preliminary results of the survey at a panel featuring Former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, co-founders of Americans for Responsible Solutions, as well as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Saundra Rhodes, Chief of Police of Horry County, South Carolina and domestic violence survivor, Sarah Engle.  Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund moderated the panel which discussed the intersection between gun violence and violence against women.

    Survey Findings

    The findings from the eight week survey conducted this spring by The Hotline shows how guns are being used to coerce, intimidate and inflict injury.

    Of those whose partners have access to firearms:

    • 22% said their partner had threatened to use their firearm to hurt themselves, their intimate partner, their children, family members, friends and even pets with a firearm.
    • 67% believe their partner is capable of killing them
    • 52% said they would feel safer if law enforcement took their partner/spouse/ex’s firearms
    • Only 34% said they were aware that the court may be able to order their partner to surrender their firearms and ammunition

    Of those who said their partner had threatened them with a firearm:

    • 76% said their partner made verbal threats to use the gun
    • 24% of them said their partner waved the gun around
    • 25% said their partner pointed the gun at them or others
    • 30% said their partner left the gun out to create a feeling of fear
    • 54% said their partner had threatened suicide with the gun

    Changes to Legislation Needed

    Urging policy makers to take immediate action, National Domestic Violence Hotline policy expert, Rob Valente says, “We need stronger protections for victims now. The people who call the Hotline are brave and they are survivors. They’ve managed to stay alive. Every day at The Hotline, advocates listen to their stories and we hear them and we help them. Today, we must act as their voice, because if they were able to do so, they would tell lawmakers they’re scared, they want the fear and pain to stop and they need help.” The National Domestic Violence Hotline believes that in order for survivors to find safety and live lives free of abuse, changes are needed. Some of the specific ways in which the current legislation should be strengthened:

    • Protecting victims of dating violence and stalking from firearms violence—in addition to the existing protection for victims of domestic violence
    • Protecting victims at the time when they are in greatest danger—when they first go to court to seek help
    • Giving law enforcement the authority to seize firearms when there is probable cause to believe the firearms were used to commit domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking
    • Giving courts the authority to order that firearms used to commit domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking be removed from the abuser
    • Improving the entry of state data concerning domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking into the National Crime Information Center databases, so that the FBI has the information it needs to prevent adjudicated abusers from getting access to firearms

    “Doing nothing is not an option. Right now, women are being terrorized in their own homes,” Valente said.

    Click here to see full findings.

  • Family violence suspects go free due to Dallas County case-filing policy

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 26, 2014

    Family violence suspects go free due to Dallas County case-filing policy

    June 16, 2014
    by Tanya Eiserer

    A woman recently told News 8 about the day she thought she was going to die.

    “All of the sudden, he just grabbed me,” she said earlier this month. “He started choking me.”

    The woman, who asked not to be identified, was driving along Grand Avenue on June 1. Her 1-year-old grandchild was in the back seat when she said her former boyfriend, Ray Herron, attacked her from the passenger seat. It didn't stop until police shocked him with a Taser.

    Dallas police arrested Herron on charges of felony family violence and endangering a child. His bail totaled $115,000.

    Four days later, he walked free without posting bond. Police hadn't filed his case in time with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

    He went free because county policy gives police three business days to file misdemeanors and many felonies with prosecutors. If that doesn’t happen, a prisoner is simply released.

    A News 8 review found that eight other felony family violence offenders and two robbery suspects went free under the three-day policy since June 1.

    Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins placed the blame squarely on Dallas County’s judges, who set the policy. Watkins said it needs to be revamped to give police more time, particularly in felony family violence cases. He said his office prepares a list every day of prisoners that are about to be released if police don’t file the case.

    “We’re actually on the side of the police department on this issue,” Watkins said. “A lot of folks are getting out of jail that shouldn’t. [...] Every death penalty case in Dallas County over the last few years dealt with family violence, and you would think that the judges would look at those cases and make a different determination as to how long a police department has to file a case.”

    Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place, had no idea the three-day policy existed in felony family violence cases. Police officials and Flink said often it may be difficult for a detective to find the victim, get their statement, and to gather up all the evidence that is needed to file a felony family violence case.

    “These victims just want the violence to stop,” she said. “I understand that we have stretched resources and that there’s capacity issues in the jail, but violent felony family violence assaults need to be taken seriously. Perpetrators need to be held accountable.”

    The alleged victim in Herron’s case told police that he began choking her and telling her that she was going to “die like that b**** Deanna Cook.”

    The victim was a friend of Deanna Cook, whose was murdered in August 2012 while on the phone with a Dallas 911 operator. Cook’s murder led to dramatic changes in the Dallas 911 call center and brought renewed focus to the dangers of domestic violence.

    “I saw her the day before,” the woman told News 8. “I told her, 'I’ll see you tomorrow,' and I never saw her again."

    The woman told police that she lost consciousness while the vehicle was still moving and that when she came to, the vehicle had stopped and she had swerved into oncoming traffic.

    Several motorists called 911 and reported that she was being choked and that Herron would not let her go. He was violently squeezing her arm once after police arrived on scene, accounting to police documents.

    Police repeatedly told Herron to let her go and to get out of the car. An officer then used a Taser on him when he wouldn’t do so, the records state.

    Cases in which the alleged offender has tried to strangle the victim are also of a particular concern, because those victims are at the highest likelihood of being killed or seriously injured, Flink said.

    News 8 reached out to the alleged victim Monday, particularly now that Herron’s free. She could not be located.

    Presiding State District Judge Rick Magnis told News 8 that there is a delicate balance between ensuring that the innocent don’t remain in jail, giving police enough time to do their job and protecting victims.

    Magnis said the judges are more than willing to revisit the policy, which also gives police agencies 10 business days to file serious felonies, such as murders and aggravated robberies, with prosecutors.

    "The District Attorney's Office has not approached the judges and indicated that there was a problem,” said Magnis, who oversees a specialized, high-risk family violence offender court. “I'm sure we will consider changing it, if they ask us."

    Magnis also noted that the policy allows the police or prosecutors to seek an extension –- three days for cases under the three-day rule and 10 days for cases under the 10-day rule.

    Read full and watch video at WFAA-TV.com.

  • Reform is the only thing O.J. Simpson deserves credit for

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 13, 2014
    Reform is the only thing O.J. Simpson deserves credit for

    June 12, 2014
    Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place
    The Dallas Morning News

    Twenty years after the brutal murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, here’s what we remember: the crime scene, the car chase, the threat of suicide, the glove, the smirk, the acquittal after an eight-month trial. Here’s what we all forget: the young children who witnessed ongoing abuse and then had to live without a mother, the family who lost a sister and a daughter, the parents who lost a son, the thousands of women who feared their own partner would get away with it.

    But how did those two deaths change our response to domestic violence? In the aftermath of the acquittal, we saw an outpouring of public outrage, a recognition that intimate partner violence can happen to anyone, the realization that leaving an abusive relationship can be more dangerous than staying and that laws were needed to make sure domestic violence is taken seriously the first time it happens.

    As advocates, we heard from women who quoted their partners as saying things such as, “I am going to O.J. you,” “You are going to wind up just like Nicole,” and “I can murder you and get away with it.” The possibilities were frightening and the fear was justified. But thankfully, because of increased protection and improved prosecution provided by new laws, victims have legal remedies today that did not exist before the tragic events of June 12, 1994.

    About two months after the murders — and four years of debate, including testimony by Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister — Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. Almost every state in the nation also passed laws to help prevent this kind of outrageous behavior.

    From New Jersey to Mississippi, and of course in California, where the Simpson and Goldman killings occurred, dozens of laws went into effect, ranging from mandatory arrest policies to more stringent penalties for repeat offenders to enhanced training of law enforcement to additional funding for shelters and hotlines. These laws have proved to be successful and encouraged victims to make reports.

    The laws and increased availability of counseling and shelter programs are subsequently saving lives. According to the Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent from 1993 to 2007, from 1.66 to 1.07 per 100,000 female U.S. residents.

    This means more mothers are there to watch their children grow up and fewer children have to feel the rage that comes in witnessing violence against their mother.

    The publicity surrounding the Simpson trial also raised awareness about organizations such as The Family Place, a domestic violence service provider based in Dallas. Day after day, a spokesperson from our organization was featured on a television news program or quoted in the newspaper. It would be the first time many isolated victims of domestic violence would learn about our services or their rights as victims.

    Calls for help increased dramatically during that time, and they have not diminished 20 years later. From 1994 to 2013, The Family Place had a 20 percent increase in shelter clients and a 100 percent increase in the total number of clients served in the community.

    We have seen professional athletes taking a leadership role in helping stop violence against women. For example, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has started the SCORE Foundation, which helps provide funding to place mentors with young boys in domestic violence shelters in Texas. Because of the violence that future Hall of Fame baseball player Joe Torre witnessed his father commit against his mother, he established the Safe at Home Foundation to provide secure after-school sanctuaries for children when it isn’t safe to go home.

    The families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman will never be able to have their loved ones back. But thanks to the actions of caring members of society, other families will not have this same loss. The legacy of the Simpson story is one that has changed the outcomes of domestic violence forever.

    Paige Flink is CEO of The Family Place and may be contacted at phflink@familyplace.org.

    Read online at Dallasnews.com.

  • Texas - Dallas County officials vow to help take away guns from abusers

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 09, 2014

    Texas, Dallas County officials vow to help take away abusers' guns

    June 7, 2014

    The Dallas Morning News

    Efforts to keep guns away from domestic abusers intensified last week as state and county officials vowed to help enforce laws that forbid certain batterers from having firearms.

    Their commitments mark the most vocal collaboration yet to tackle the challenges of enforcing the gun ban, as Dallas County continues to make preventing domestic homicides a priority.

    These are the first steps in creating a countywide program to keep guns out of the hands of abusers.

    Need-to-know background: State and federal laws prohibit convicted abusers and subjects of protective orders from having guns.

    But The Dallas Morning News reported last week that Dallas County regularly fails to enforce those laws, leaving guns in the hands of abusers such as the man who police say shot a police officer and killed his pregnant girlfriend last year while he had a protective order against him.

    Judges and police blamed their inaction on a law that doesn’t say who has the authority to confiscate the weapons. The News reported that other Texas counties, including Travis and Bexar, had found ways to enforce the ban anyway.

    Action at the courthouse: Criminal court Judge Roberto Cañas, who mainly handles family violence misdemeanors, stepped up last week to oversee Dallas County’s efforts to keep guns away from domestic abusers. He will be the point person for police, prosecutors and other judges and will fill a vacant leadership role experts say is key in creating a successful program.

    “I’m going to be that person,” said Cañas, who said The News’ article prompted him to act. “I’m putting it on myself to be that.”

    State District Judge Rick Magnis, who runs a program for domestic violence offenders on probation, pledged to be Cañas’ “right hand.”

    Also last week, judges in protective-order court met to talk about how they could make sure accused batterers in their courts don’t illegally keep their guns. It was the first time those judges got together to talk about gun ban enforcement, said Judge Linda Thomas, one of four senior judges who rotate on the court’s bench.

    Legislative options: Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, is considering whether state law should be changed to help officials confiscate firearms. He plans to bring the issue up in the Legislature next year, said his chief of staff, Liz Zornes.

    “This is something we think everyone should get behind, regardless of party or political viewpoints,” Zornes said. “No one is in favor of domestic violence.”

    Anchia’s staff also reached out to the Dallas County district attorney’s office and The Family Place shelter last week.

    What’s next: Anchia wants to meet with judges, advocates and other key players later this month. Magnis said he will soon begin requiring offenders in his court to testify or sign an affidavit about whether they have a firearm. If they lie, they may face additional charges or have their probations revoked. Cañas said other courts could follow suit.

    Read the full article at Dallasnews.com.

  • Shelle Sills To Be Honorary Chair of 2014 Partners Card benefiting The Family Place

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 09, 2014

    Shelle Sills To Be Honorary Chair Of The Family Place’s 2014 Partners Card

    June 6, 2014
    by Jeanne Prejean

    Since leaving Neiman Marcus Downtown as VP/GM, Shelle Sills has maintained a relatively low profile. Instead of learning how to play golf, she’s been helping Tim Headington in business development and special projects. And, of course, she’s continued to be the go-to-galpal for fundraising friends on the QT.

    But The Family Place Partners Card 2014 Tri-Chairs Lisa Bhattacharya, Andrea Cheek and Diana Hamilton have gotten Shelle on board for the October 2 – November 2 shop-extravaganza.

    Oldtimers will recall Shelle as a young retailing pup when she dazzled fashionistas at The Gazebo.

    According to The Family Place Executive Director Paige Flink, “Shelle is truly the retail queen of Dallas, and we are thrilled to recognize her as our honorary chair. When we first had the idea of starting a shopping fundraiser in Dallas, Shelle was one of the first retailers we contacted to float the concept. Her valuable insight and recommendations more than 20 years ago helped us launch what is now one of the most highly anticipated shopping events each year. She has truly been a loyal supporter of the program, literally since day one.”

    With Shelle, Bank of Texas as presenting sponsor and more than 750 retailers, The Partners Card trio has their eyes on by-passing the $1M mark once again.

    Wish lists should be created now for shopping at a discount.

    Read full article at MySweetCharity.com.

  • Dallas County steps up to keep guns from domestic abusers

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 06, 2014

    Dallas County steps up to keep guns from domestic abusers

    June 5, 2013
    by Jennifer Emily and Sarah Mervosh
    The Dallas Morning News

    Alarmed that Dallas County fails to enforce laws that forbid certain domestic abusers to have guns, state and county officials vowed Thursday to take stronger steps to keep guns away from batterers.

    The commitments come after The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that county officials weren’t enforcing state and federal laws that prohibit convicted domestic abusers and subjects of protective orders from having guns.

    Criminal court judge Roberto Cañas said Thursday that he would oversee Dallas County’s efforts to impose the law, filling a vacant leadership role that experts say was holding the county back from creating an enforcement plan.

    Also, Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia is considering whether the law needs changing to help officials confiscate firearms, and plans to address the issue in the Legislature next year, his chief of staff said.

    “This is something we think everyone should get behind regardless of party or political viewpoints,” Liz Zornes said. “No one is in favor of domestic violence.”

    Because Dallas County officials didn’t follow the law, guns stayed in the hands of abusers like the man who police say killed his pregnant girlfriend and shot a police officer last year while he had a protective order against him.

    Officials blamed their inaction on the law, which doesn’t clearly indicate who is authorized to confiscate weapons. But The News found that other Texas counties had discovered ways to impose the gun ban anyway.

    Cañas, who mainly handles family violence misdemeanors, said he was inspired to take action because of the story and will take the lead on making sure Dallas follows suit. “I’m going to be that person,” he said as he spent part of Thursday looking over plans for how other communities remove guns. “I’m putting it on myself to be that.”

    Officials said the newspaper’s story spurred conversations and meetings this week — from the courthouse to Dallas City Hall to Anchia’s office — about what could be done to make sure guns stay out of the hands of abusers.

    It is the first time since preventing domestic homicides became a countywide priority last year that enforcing the gun ban has moved to the forefront of discussions.

    Most women killed by intimate partners in Texas are shot, and research shows that access to a gun increases a woman’s chance of being killed by her partner by five times.

    Judges involved

    On Monday, Dallas County protective order court judges met to discuss whether they could help impose the law, said Judge Linda Thomas, one of four senior judges who rotate on the bench.

    “This week is the first time that I sat down with the other judges and actually talked about the weapon issue,” Thomas said.

    They also discussed enforcing the firearm ban Tuesday during a roundtable discussion about protective order court.

    She said the judges are now looking at how other counties effectively enforce the law. Travis and Bexar counties, for example, have programs that require abusers to hand over their guns in exchange for a receipt.

    Thomas said the judges are also ironing out differences about whether the law gives them authority to confiscate weapons. Police, too, have expressed reservations that the law doesn’t say who can take guns.

    Anchia’s chief of staff said his office hopes to tackle those concerns.

    “We would like to do legislation that would put some teeth into the law,” Zornes said Thursday. “We need some sort of enforcement mechanism that is statewide so people aren’t being told to turn in their guns and then that’s the last anybody hears about it.”

    Anchia, a Democrat, was out of the country on a business trip Thursday, but Zornes said the office contacted The Family Place shelter and the Dallas County district attorney’s office this week. She said they also plan to host a meeting with judges and advocates later this month.

    “We just want to sit down and pick everyone’s brain — all these folks who see this stuff every day — and ask them what can we do to make the law better and make it more enforceable,” she said. “Because right now, it clearly isn’t.”

    As the new point person, Cañas said he plans to look at how other communities answered critical questions, such as where to store confiscated weapons and how to pay for it. But he said some changes could be made quickly.

    “There are things that are in our power now. We need to get the things that we as judges control to start working,” he said. “Like asking the offender, ‘do you have guns?’”

    The News reported that a Florida county asks abusers to sign an affidavit about whether they have guns. Cañas said that could be easily implemented here, and state District Judge Rick Magnis, who runs a program for domestic violence offenders on probation, said he has already written a draft of an affidavit to use in his court.

    Magnis also said he considering having abusers testify whether they have weapons. Both methods would be considered sworn testimony and lying could mean adding criminal charges or revoking probation.

    Cañas had previously tried but failed to to confiscate guns in his court. He said now there is more community support.

    “He can count on me as his right hand,” Magnis said. “I will do anything I can to assist.”

    City Hall discussion

    At Dallas City Hall this week, representatives from the city, police, shelters and the district attorney’s office sat around a large table for a regular meeting of the domestic violence task force.

    City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, the panel’s chair, brought up this week’s movement to better enforce the ban. “We are looking at how we can possibly deal with it,” she said.

    The task force is also set to begin tracking certain measures that would give a data-driven glimpse into how Dallas County could better handle domestic violence. The group is focused on preventing domestic homicides, particularly by shortening the time between when an incident occurs and when the case is resolved in the courts system.

    Dallas police will soon report to the task force a tally of domestic violence fatalities and the number of protective order violations, for example. Shelters will count how many people they turn away because their beds are full. And the district attorney’s office will report how many cases it rejects or no-bills and how many repeat offenders they prosecute, among other metrics.

    Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place shelter, was encouraged by the discussions this week. She said she hopes Dallas County can create a system that will withstand changes in leadership and protect victims for years to come.

    “Our community is committed to reaching a solution that will work,” she said. “I’m not going to stop fighting until we figure out a way to follow these laws that were set up to protect victims of domestic violence.”

    But judges cautioned that large-scale change will take time. There are 17 felony courts and 13 misdemeanor courts that operate independently. Prosecutors, advocates and the county’s police departments will also have to work together.

    Mary Murphy, administrative judge over judges in 34 counties, including Dallas, said she wants to be a resource.

    “We’re on it,” she said. “I’m trying to get everyone talking.”

    Read the full article at Dallasnews.com.

  • Pepper Smash Says Domestic Violence Is No Joke

    by Emily Roberts | Jun 02, 2014

    Pepper Smash Says Domestic Violence Is No Joke

    Popular ‘cocktail kitchen’ in Shops at Legacy hosts fundraiser for The Family Place all day Sunday, June 1

    PLANO, TX (May 29, 2014) -- Domestic violence is no laughing matter, and the team at Plano's Pepper Smash is doing their part to make sure that message is heard loud and clear.

    On Sunday, June 1, the trend-setting "cocktail kitchen" in Plano's Shops at Legacy is hosting a daylong fundraiser benefitting The Family Place, the Dallas-area’s leading non-profit agency serving families torn apart by domestic violence.  Pepper Smash will donate 100% of the day's profits to the charity, beginning at 11 a.m. with its popular Sunday brunch and continuing through closing at 11 p.m.  

    “We thought the time was right to invite our loyal customers, and folks that haven’t tried us yet, to come out, enjoy our distinctive food and drink offerings, and support the great people at The Family Place,” said Chris DeMers, operating partner for Pepper Smash. “It’s way past time to put an end to the cycle of violence in our homes, and that starts by acknowledging the gravity of the issue, not by making it a punch line.”

    For victims of family violence, The Family Place delivers proven programs that address emotional and physical abuse and incest. The Family Place provides free, comprehensive services that prevent violence and fully support women, children and men on their path from fear to safety.

    “We’re very grateful to the fine folks at Pepper Smash for taking a bold stand against domestic violence,” said Paige Flink, CEO of The Family Place. “We hope everyone in and around Plano will stop by on Sunday, enjoy a delicious brunch or dinner, and help generate funds to support the critical services we provide every day to families from all across the Metroplex.” 

    Pepper Smash is located at 7200 Bishop Road in Plano’s Shops at Legacy.

  • Read about the 2014 Partners Card Kickoff at Galleria Dallas in CultureMap Dallas

    by Emily Roberts | May 21, 2014

    Family Place fans flit around Galleria Dallas for Partners Card party

    May 21, 2014
    by Diana Oates
    Culture Map Dallas

    It's hard to believe it’s time for the Family Place to kick off another year of Partners Card, but just as soon as one successful philanthropic season comes to an end, another one begins.

    Galleria Dallas was just the right spot to launch the most-anticipated shopping extravaganza in Dallas. The signature fundraising event for the Family Place, Partners Card offers cardholders a 20 percent discount at more than 750 participating shops and restaurants throughout Dallas, including quite a few Galleria favorites. All proceeds from card purchases go directly into the Family Place coffers.

    While listening to remarks from chairs Lisa Bhattacharya, Andrea Cheek and Diana Hamilton, supporters — including Family Place executive director Paige Flink, Lynn McBee, Maggie Kipp, Sophie LeBlanc, Lauren Levi and Katie Hunzinger — enjoyed hors d’oeuvre, cocktails and entertainment in The Alley, adjacent to The Grill on the Alley. No doubt they were already plotting their Partners Card shopping strategies too.

    Over the past 21 years, Partners Card has become the largest fundraiser for the Family Place. In 2013, the nonprofit sold 14,600 Partners Cards, raising $1,150,884.

    Since 1978, the Family Place has counseled more than 201,000 clients in residential and outreach programs. In addition, the agency has provided life-saving shelter to more than 21,000 women and children and has answered more than 530,000 calls for help.

    Read more in CultureMap Dallas.

  • Inspiring Story from Former TFP Client

    by Emily Roberts | May 14, 2014

    CSU propels music grad far from painful past

    May 14, 2014
    by Maeline Novey
    The Coloradoan

    Soon-to-be CSU graduate Sierra Hayden's thin, nimble fingers rise and fall upon flute keys in a coordinated dance with her mouth to make music where there was none before.

    A sense of calm appears to take hold as she works her way through the first movement of Georg Philipp Telemann's "Fantasia" in D minor. It's times like these that offer solace from life's challenges; it's moments like these that helped her through pain in her younger years.

    Escaping an abusive father and husband, Hayden and her mother, Angela, sought shelter at The Family Place, a safe house in Dallas, Texas, for victims of family violence. While in the program, Hayden saw a flute-playing therapist who would perform songs from "Harry Potter" and other movie soundtracks for her.

    Hayden was young, a fifth-grader, when she started seeing the therapist. She doesn't remember her name, but she'll never forget her gift, she said recently, wiping tears from her bright eyes as she recounted her life's journey.

    One day, the therapist gave Hayden a beaten-up, old flute. After leaving The Family Place, Hayden and her mother lived in a neighborhood where Hayden couldn't play safely outside because of gang-related and other violence. But she got a videotape teaching how to play the flute and, day after day, watched and mimicked the virtual teacher who sat in front of a rainbow-colored tapestry playing eight musical notes. When she and her mother moved into a better area in Richardson, Texas, Hayden joined the middle school band as a seventh-grader.

    Middle school band blossomed into marching band in high school, after which Hayden studied teaching and flute performance at Texas Tech University. There she studied under flute professor Lisa Garner-Santa, who became a mentor, friend and model for what Hayden wants in the future.

    "I someday hope to have a job like hers," said Hayden, who, while in Fort Collins, has shared her love of music with young children and teens through private lessons and classes at various Poudre School District schools.

    Talking with her other mentor, Michelle Stanley, an assistant professor of music at CSU, it's apparent Hayden is well on her way to accomplishing her teaching goal.

    Stanley, who's watched Hayden grow into a thoughtful, expressive and curious musician, said she's impressed by Hayden's teaching, not only within university walls, but with middle and high school students in the community.

    "Her personality just sucks in the students. ... They're connected to her very rapidly," in a way that Stanley said she doesn't often see in her graduate students.

    Stanley, too, said she admires Hayden's ability to put aside her upbringing to embrace a present and future marked by success.

    "She really rose from a place where most people would spiral," she said of Hayden, who she sees as a strong, smart and talented woman who doesn't take grief from anyone.

    Now 25, Hayden will graduate on Saturday with a master's degree in music performance. She is one among the 3,044 undergraduate and 1,058 graduate students who will be honored Friday and Saturday during Colorado State University commencement ceremonies.

    And after that? Hayden has applied to several doctoral music programs and ultimately would like to teach music at the collegiate level.

    Asked where she'd be without music, Hayden laughs. "I think about that all the time," she said from her seat at a cafe table in CSU's University Center for the Arts. Environmental sciences might have be one route, but she generally can't come up with an alternative to her current path.

    That's how she knows music was — and always will be — the right choice.

    Read the full story online at http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/local/2014/05/13/csu-propels-music-grad-far-painful-past/9056047/.

  • The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Is Revealed

    by Emily Roberts | May 14, 2014

    JUST IN: The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Is Revealed

    May 14, 2014
    by Jeanne Prejean

    Finally managed to get the rest of the new about The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon. You already know that Co-Chairs Stephanie and Travis Hollman, Carol Seay and Stephanie Seay have arranged to have Joe Torre to be the keynote speaker for the September 17th event at the Hilton Anatole.

    But there has been a change of plans in the presentation of the Texas Trailblazer. In the past it has been awarded to a number of outstanding people and organizations that “have made a significant contribution to the community.” IN addition to The Family Place Texas Trailblazer Award, The Family Place Real-Life Hero Award, The Family Place Youth Service Award and Scholarship and The Family Place Advocacy Award. Past recipients have included Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Ebby Halliday Acers, Norma Lea Beasley, Anita N. Martinez, Nancy Brinker, Caroline Rose Hunt, Colleen Barrett, Dr. Carol Wise and Linda Custard. Why just last year Gloria Campus, Darlene Blakey, Kimberly Clark, Hannah Hinton and Karim Bryant were honored.

    Harold C. Simmons (File photo)

    Harold C. Simmons (File photo)

    Each of these people and organizations have made outstanding contributions to their community. For 2014, the decision was made to honor an individual, whose past endeavors not only supported numerous non-profits but also established programs that will continue for generations to come.

    This year’s Texas Trailblazer Luncheon will honor and celebrate the “Legacy of Harold C. Simmons for his support of The Family Place as well as the many, many organizations, charities, hospitals and countless people who have benefited from his unprecedented generosity.”

    Despite Harold’s death less than six months ago, his legacy will continue for decades and decades for both neighbor and stranger alike. That is a true trailblazer.

    Read the full article at MySweetCharity.com.

  • Baseball Legend Joe Torre To Headline The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Luncheon On September 17

    by Emily Roberts | May 08, 2014

    JUST IN: Baseball Legend Joe Torre To Headline The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Luncheon On September 17

    May 6, 2014
    by Jeanne Prejean

    Ran into Carol Seay at the Salvation Army Fashion Show yesterday at Brook Hollow where former First Lady Laura Bush was honorary chair and the “experienced” clothes were disappearing from the racks.

    But more about the show and luncheon later. What was pried out of Carol is that former All-Star baseball player, four-time World Series champion manger of the New York Yankee Joe Torre will be the headliner at The Family Place’s September 17th Texas Trailblazer Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

    This summer Joe will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Oh, what’s the connection between the baseball legend and domestic abuse? Margaret’s Place.

    What’s Margaret’s Place? So many questions, but good ones!

    Joe and his wife Ali created Safe At Home Foundation and established Margaret’s Places in New York, New Jersey and California, where middle and high school students are provided with a “’safe room’ to talk to each other and a professional counselor trained in domestic violence intervention and prevention about violence-related issues.”

    The reason for creating such a program was because as Joe puts it, “When I was growing up, my father was a bully. My mother [Margaret] faced verbal and physical abuse from my father. If he didn’t like the food mom made, he would throw it against the wall. He used to make her get up in the middle of the night to cook for friends he brought home.

    “Although I did not get phys­i­cally abused myself, I grew up in fear because my mom did. I was shy and dad would make fun of me. When­ever I saw his car in the dri­ve­way, I didn’t want to go home. One win­ter, when I was 12, my older brother Frank (20) said to my father, ‘We want you out of the house. We don’t want any­thing other than the house we live in. We don’t want any­thing from you. Just leave.’ And he left.

    “Grow­ing up in a home where there was domes­tic vio­lence was very dif­fi­cult and left last­ing scars. Although I didn’t real­ize it then, I used to feel like the abuse was my fault. I felt help­less and alone. For many years, I felt ashamed and worthless.

    “In those days, no one in my neigh­bor­hood knew what was hap­pen­ing in my home, or if they did, nobody talked about it. I did not talk about it because I was afraid. I didn’t know who to turn to for help.”

    Carol along with daughter-in-law Stephanie Seay and Stephanie and Travis Hollman are co-chairing the event.

    More news will be developing. Stay tuned.

    Read the full article at MySweetCharity.com!

  • Volunteers help United Way kick off 90th anniversary projects

    by Emily Roberts | May 08, 2014

    Volunteers help United Way kick off 90th anniversary projects

    May 6, 2014
    by Christina Rosales
    The Dallas Morning News

    More than 60 volunteers painted apartments and installed shutters Tuesday morning at a Dallas refuge for women and children victimized by domestic violence.

    The volunteer drive at The Family Place Safe Campus kicked off United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ nine service projects honoring the organization’s 90th anniversary. Each project will be led by a Dallas Cowboys legend who has advocated for United Way in the past.

    “We talk about the role of the Dallas Cowboys in this community,” former Cowboy Darren Woodson told the volunteers from Texas Instruments and Alliance Data as they rolled up their sleeves. “Today is not about the Cowboys. We’re here because of Family Place and what they do for our community.”

    The campus is where women and children receive services from The Family Place without fear of being discovered by their abuser.

    “You may never know the woman and child you helped escape,” said Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place. “But you can imagine what it’s like to escape with nothing. You’ve made a difference to them.”

    United Way’s 90th anniversary is this year “but when you turn 90, you get to celebrate your birthday almost all year,” said Susan Hoff, the group’s chief strategy and operations officer. There will be a service project every month through January.

    “I can’t imagine what we’ll do for our 100th anniversary,” she said.

    Jennifer Staubach Gates, who leads the city’s domestic violence task force, said the effort to raise awareness about the issue is a community one and that the 60 volunteers will be among those helping to lead the effort.

    “It’s a passion of the mayor’s to make every woman feel safe at home, and if she doesn’t, that she has the resources to feel safe,” the City Council member said. “Domestic violence is hidden behind closed doors. We don’t want those doors to be closed anymore.”

    As the volunteers split into teams to get down to work, Lawaine Fairchild-Jokiel of TI helped her team paint a two-bedroom apartment at the campus.

    “I want to share my love with whoever lives here,” she said. “It’s inspiring, making a home for someone nicer. That’s special.”

    Read the full article at Dallasnews.com.

  • United Way Nine for 90 Campaign Kicks Off Today at The Family Place Safe Campus

    by Emily Roberts | May 06, 2014

    "Nine for 90” community service projects kick-off with a focus on domestic violence prevention

    (DALLAS) – The first of the “Nine for 90”service projects celebrating United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ 90th anniversary kicked off today with a volunteer-driven event at the Family Place Safe Campus in Dallas.

    Dallas Cowboys legend Darren Woodson joined 60 volunteers from Texas Instruments (TI) and Alliance Data to roll up their sleeves and complete facility upgrades -- including painting, replacing shutters and transforming a backyard playground – that will allow the campus to continue to provide a welcoming and dignified environment for the families served.

    The “Nine for 90” series, presented by TI, includes nine monthly community service projects and brings together legendary Dallas Cowboys players with volunteers from TI and other corporate sponsors.  The projects with United Way’s partner agencies focus on United Way’s impact areas of education, income and health – the building blocks for strong families and thriving communities.

    “It’s an important issue,” said Woodson. “Mother’s Day weekend is approaching, and we naturally reflect on our childhoods – and for those of us fortunate enough to be raised in a peaceful, stable environment, we know how important that is. Organizations like the Family Place, do such important work. They protect, they shelter and they help rebuild lives. I’m grateful and inspired to have been out here today.”

    Woodson and the volunteers were joined at the event by: Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy and Operations Officer for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas; Jennifer Staubach Gates, District 13 Dallas City Councilwomen and Chairman of the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Task Force; Andy Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Instruments Foundation; and Dana Beckman, Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs for Alliance Data.

    Through January, each of the “Nine for 90” projects will each be championed by one of the nine Dallas Cowboys legends who have participated in the United Way-NFL partnership over the years. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of United Way Worldwide’s historic partnership with the National Football League, promoting service and active lifestyles through public service announcements. The nine Dallas Cowboys who have appeared in United Way public service announcements over the years and who are championing the “Nine for 90” community service projects include Roger Staubach (1974, 1993), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1976), Charlie Waters (1976), Tony Dorsett (1981), Randy White (1982), Emmitt Smith (1991), Troy Aikman (1992, 1998), Darren Woodson (1986) and Jason Witten (2007).

    The next two “Nine for 90” projects:
    • In June, another Cowboys legend will champion the cause of combating hunger and homelessness.  Volunteer projects will be held in conjunction with United Way service providers City Square and Jewish Family Services, and the United Way led Dallas Summer Meals Sponsor Council.
    • In July, fighting childhood obesity through health and wellness will be the focus of Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, who is also a United Way of Metropolitan Dallas board member and spokesperson for United Way’s Healthy Zone Schools program.  Volunteer projects will be held at AT&T Stadium in conjunction with the GENYOuth Summit & United Way Healthy Zone Schools Expo.

    Troy Aikman and Charlotte Jones Anderson serve as Co-Chairs of the 90th Anniversary Celebration. Honorary Chairs include Ruth Altshuler, Ebby Halliday Acers, Lyda Hill, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, Caroline Rose Hunt, Margot and Ross Perot, and Marianne and Roger Staubach.  The “Live United. Forever.” Gala is chaired by Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO, AT&T; Tom Falk, chairman and CEO, Kimberly-Clark Corporation; and Rich Templeton, chairman, president and CEO of Texas Instruments.

    United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will culminate its year-long anniversary celebration with the “Live United. Forever.” Gala presented by Kimberly-Clark Corporation, at AT&T Stadium on February 7, 2015.

    # # #
    About United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

    United Way of Metropolitan Dallas brings people together to improve lives and create lasting change here in North Texas by focusing on education, income, and health -- the building blocks for strong families and thriving communities. We galvanize and connect all sectors of society – individuals, businesses, non-profits, and government – to create long-term change through investing in solutions that produce healthy, well-educated and financially stable individuals and families. We raise, invest and leverage over $50M annually in community-focused solutions serving Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and southern Denton counties. We do more than help one person beat the odds – we are changing the odds for entire communities. Together, we LIVE UNITED. To learn more, please visit UnitedWayDallas.org.

  • Be Project Presents 3rd Annual MUSIC 4 CHANGE Concert on Saturday, May 10

    by Emily Roberts | May 05, 2014
    Dallas Teens Host FREE Concert to end Bullying and Relationship Violence 
    Be Project to Host 3rd Annual Music4Change Concert on May 10, 2014

    WHAT: Music 4 Change is back! Be Project, an initiative of The Family Place, will host its 3rd annual Music 4 Change (M4C) Concert at The Underground at South Side on Lamar this Saturday, May 10th, 2014. Music 4 Change is a FREE concert for youth, and will offer a fun way to come together, stand up against violence and celebrate healthy relationships. The concert features local, signed teen artists as well as up-and-coming youth talent who promote a positive message.  
    1 in 3 teens will experience an abusive relationship by the time they graduate high school and 85% of students witness bullying in their schools. This concert - planned by teens FOR teens - is instrumental in increasing the dialogue between youth about bullying and dating violence. It will offer them a safe place to stand up against violence and let their voices be heard.

    Since 1999, The Be Project has worked in the community to empower students to end relationship violence. Last year we worked with over 6,000 students - teaching them how to promote healthy relationships in their communities. For more information, please visit the Be Project website at www.familyplacebeproject.org or the Music4Change Facebook Event Page. 

    WHEN: Saturday, May 10, 2014 | 1:30-4PM

    WHERE: The Underground at South Side on Lamar | 1409 S Lamar Street, Dallas, TX

    CONTACT: Liz Ferrigno, Be Project | 972.243.1611| beproject@familyplace.org

    ABOUT: The Be Project: Empowering Youth to be Part of the Solution to End Relationship Violence

    The Be Project, an initiative of The Family Place, provides classroom-based education and therapeutic groups to children and youth in 3rd-12th grades, as well as to college students. For more information, visit www.familyplacebeproject.org. 

  • 2014 Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon Date and Location Revealed

    by Emily Roberts | Apr 29, 2014

    The Family Place Letter Signing Indicates Something Is Up For Trailblazer Awards Luncheon

    April 28, 2014
    by Jeanne Prejean

    Just back from a letter signing at Margaret Hancock’s dining room table. With Jack the itty-bitty Yorkie circling the table and baby Hewitt Seay doing the guy-thing of hanging out in his baby-mobile, the gals at the table were furiously providing their John Hancocks and notes to a passel of letters that will drop very soon.

    And what is the news that will be revealed? So far after bribing and begging, the only info provided is that the letter deals with The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, September 17. We managed to get out that it will take place at the Anatole. Then it was an “oops” moment, when a letter passed by and it was noted that the event co-chairs are Stephanie and Travis Hollman and Hewitt’s mom Stephanie Seay and grandestma Carol Seay.

    Have offered a new squeeze toy to Hewitt to find out more deets. Hewitt claimed he had all the toys a guy needed. Nope. He’s holding out for toy plus a Kalfin black diamond pacifier. Stay tuned. His people are talking to our people.

    Read the full article and see photos at MySweetCharity.com.

  • 12 Incredible Things You Have Done - 2013 At A Glance

    by Emily Roberts | Apr 23, 2014

    12 Incredible Things You've Done

    Why The Family Pace? Because we will never give up.

    We wanted to share and celebrate what you made possible. In 2013, The Family Place provided 11,758 clients with 171,968 hours of service.

    One thing's for sure - we will never give up until all victims can lead a life free from violence.

    The end of domestic violence will not be a quick victory, but it can be done. Standing together with you, we are an unwavering force to end this epidemic.

    We would not have the opportunity to do what we do without you. Join us as we continue in our mission to end family violence.

    2013 At A Glance - Why The Family Place

    Thank you for being part of the solution to end family violence.

  • 2014 Partners Card Kick-Off Party and Shopping Dates Announced

    by Emily Roberts | Apr 23, 2014

    The Family Place Announces 2014 Partners Card Kick-Off Party & Shopping Dates

    April 23, 2014
    by Lisa Petty
    DFW Style Daily

    Few events are anticipated by North Texas shoppers quite like The Family Place Partners Card time. The annual program equals a Metroplex-wide shop-a-thon at more than 750 participating retailers. And it’s all for a wonderful cause.

    Since launching in 1992, Partners Cards have raised over $14 million dollars for The Family Place. Netting consumers a 20% discount for a 10-day period at hundreds of participating area businesses, the cards are good toward purchases at boutiques, restaurants, spas, and much more.

    In addition to a substantial boost for local businesses (participants all report sales “well above normal” during Partners Card time), proceeds from card sales benefit Dallas’ largest domestic violence agency. To date, The Family Place has sheltered more than 21,000 woman and children, and has answered more than 530,000 calls for help.

    On Thursday, May 1, join The Family Place and Bank of Texas to kick-off the 2014 Partners Card program at Galleria Dallas. On the Alley (adjacent to the Grill on the Alley restaurant), guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and entertainment from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Following this kick-off celebration, the 10-day Partners Card shopping event will take place October 24 – November 2, 2014. Cards will go on sale later this year. Congratulations to The Family Place from all of us at DFW Style Daily!

    For more information on next week’s kick-off event, visit PartnersCard.org or the DFW Style Daily Event Calendar.

    Read the full article at DFW Style Daily.

  • Deadly Affection Part 4 - Making Sense of the Unfathomable - in The Dallas Morning News

    by Emily Roberts | Apr 23, 2014

    Deadly Affection:Part 4 - Making sense of the unfathomable

    The Dallas Morning News

    Experts say children who lose a parent at the hands of a loved one struggle with anger, fear and loss

    Every day a half dozen Americans die at the hands of someone they love. Most of them are women. Many are parents.

    Kids who have lost a parent to an intimate partner know a peculiar kind of agony. They are hobbled by grief for the victim, bewildered by the killer and terrified of what it means. Where will they live? Who will love them? Are they destined to repeat the pattern and become an abuser or a victim? How do they relate to the killer?

    “You’re grieving the loss of the victim, you’re grieving the loss of the person who did it ... that the world isn’t just, it’s not fair, that bad things can happen to people who don’t deserve it,” said Nicole Holmes, a psychologist with Friends of the Family, which provides services to victims of domestic violence in Denton. “It shakes your whole world view.”

    Overcoming such a tragedy at an early age is possible but painful. The bloodstains fade, but the horror lingers. So do the questions. The following stories of three families at different stages of recovery offer a glimpse of the toll taken by domestic violence fatalities.

    “Why did they die?”

    LTTLE ELM – A little over a year has passed since “the incident.”

    That’s what David Chomitzky calls his daughter’s murder.

    He doesn’t call it an accident because he won’t lie to his grandson. But he hasn’t told the boy his father shot his mother before committing suicide, because that’s impossible for a 7-year-old to fathom.

    It’s not much easier for a 63-year-old man. “They say time heals all wounds,” Chomitzky said recently. “But right now it’s still bleeding. It’s hard to get up in the morning.”

    He worries about raising his orphaned grandson. And he is haunted by the fact that even though he was just a few feet away when his daughter was killed, “I wasn’t there to stop it.”

    His daughter, Bethany, and her husband, Rob, had moved to Texas from Pennsylvania in the summer of 2012 for a fresh start. Bethany asked her father and his longtime girlfriend, Ellen, to join them in Texas. Since Chomitzky was close to his grandson, they agreed.

    The boy is being called “John” in this story because Chomitzky asked that he not be identified.

    When Rob and Bethany couldn’t work out their differences, the couple separated. Bethany, 33, and John lived with Chomitzky and Ellen.

    Chomitzky knew the separation had been tense but didn’t learn until later that Bethany was “deathly afraid” of her estranged husband. After Rob moved out, she wanted the locks changed so he couldn’t drop by unexpectedly. She switched phone companies to avoid Rob’s constant calls, but Chomitzky didn’t know Rob waited for her after work so often that she transferred to another location. Bethany sought a protective order but didn’t tell Chomitzky why.

    “I wish she would have told me more,” he said. “I might have been more cautious.”

    John was in the backyard playing with a friend when his father came to get his mother’s signature on some legal papers that day.

    Chomitzky was breading chicken in the kitchen for dinner when Rob shot Bethany behind the ear, then shot himself.

    Counseling helps, but Chomitzky struggles with his own grief while trying to be there for John.

    He worries because sometimes “I see his dad’s behavior in him.” John likes to hit him, he said, so his counselor suggested he buy a punching bag.

    Not long ago John had been playing “cops and robbers” with other little boys, when he ran to his grandfather and “shot” him in the forehead with his thumb and forefinger.

    Two years ago that wouldn’t have bothered Chomitzky, who is a gun enthusiast. This time it “really freaked me out,” he said. “He has no idea the connection that made for me.”

    John talks about his mom, Chomitzky said, but rarely mentions his father. Chomitzky suspects John does that because Chomitzky initially responded to such comments with silence.

    But counselors told him that “children tend to identify with their parents, so ‘if Daddy’s bad, that means I’m bad,’” Chomitzky said. So he tries to say something good about Rob when pressed.

    “It’s really hard,” Chomitzky acknowledged. “But I feel I have to.”

    Chomitzky wonders when and what to tell John about how his parents died.

    Not long ago the boy asked, “Why did they die just filling out papers?”

    “We will never ever know the real, true reason,” Chomitzky replied. “All we know is it’s tragic.”

    Blood and brains spattered all over the dining room. As Chomitzky wailed, “No, no, no,” and punched a hole in the wall in anger, the boys ran into the house.

    John “saw his mom,” Chomitzky said. “He didn’t see his dad right away.”

    Chomitzky sent the boys upstairs.

    That night, John stayed with a friend; the next day he went to day care. “We tried to keep his routine as normal as possible,” Chomitzky said.

    Maintaining normalcy is hard. Even though the crime scene was cleaned by a forensic service, John “used to go to the chair where his mom died when he was upset,” Chomitzky said.

    Chomitzky said sometimes he still detects a slaughterhouse smell when he passes the room. He would like to move but doesn’t know if it’s a good idea to take John away from his friends and school.

    The past year has drawn the two of them closer, but he’s still not sure how his grandson feels. “Outwardly he seems happy,” he said. “But most people who see me think I seem happy too. I can’t see inside his head.”

    How to help a child after a domestic violence homicide

    • Place the child with other family members in a stable home. Shuttling a child between relatives or foster care can be traumatic.

    • One steady person, not necessarily the caregiver, who stays in touch with the child on a regular basis provides a much-needed anchor.

    • If a child wants to talk about what happened to their parent, let him do so. Silence is more traumatic.

    • Don’t make negative remarks about the killer. He or she is related to the child in some way, and the child may feel the comments pertain to him as well.

    • Find a counselor for the child and the caregiver who is trained to deal with trauma cases.

    • Counseling as an adult is helpful.

    Read the full article at Dallasnews.com.