MONIQUE BATSON — Domestic violence taking massive toll on region; support requested

Published 12:34 am Friday, October 29, 2021

Angie wasn’t at home when she got a call informing her the person she had been seeing was waiting for her in a parking lot.

She met the man, who was angry because she wanted to end the relationship.

“He beat her so bad that when the man got arrested, he still had brain matter in his shoe,” said Deborah Tomov, executive director of Family Services. “When she woke up, she had 59 stitches across her skull. She had permanent brain damage. And she needed to learn how to walk. She was in the hospital for six months.”

Tomov stood before the Port Arthur City Council this week with a video presentation about the Women and Children’s Shelter of Southeast Texas, which serves six counties. Currently members of the organization are seeking funds from the entities it serves to help relocate the region’s only shelter, which has suffered catastrophic damage in the last four years.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey damaged the shelter so badly that it took almost two years to finish repairs. It was only open three months when Imelda hit, gutting the facility once again. More than 50 residents had to be moved to other facilities around the state.

Whenever a tropical storm threatens the local Gulf Coast, the shelter has to be evacuated, costing approximately $30,000 each time.

Still, it remains the only safe haven in Southeast Texas for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Angie was just one of the local women helped by Family Services of Southeast Texas. And now, Tomov said, she has healed. But she still suffers permanent brain damage.

Physical or not, a victim will always suffer from a form of damage.

October is known for Breast Cancer Awareness. But it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In 2019, the shelter helped 600 residents in Port Arthur and 897 in Beaumont. According to 2020 Census data, there are 59,000 more residents in Beaumont than Port Arthur.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault is still a taboo,” Tomov told council members. “A lot of people don’t like to talk about it, but it happens.”

Current statistics, she said, show one in every 45 Port Arthur residents are suffering from domestic violence.

And that is just those who report it.

But for those seeking a safer life, Family Services of Southeast Texas needs help to help them.

Following the video presented Tuesday, a clearly moved Councilman Kenneth Marks said, “I don’t have any words to describe what I was feeling while watching that.”

Me either, Councilman.

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.