Stress from recent price hikes, economic strain can fuel domestic violence

When stress rises, so does family violence. It’s a trend seen locally and nationwide, according to Family Violence Prevention Services.

Over the past couple of weeks, San Antonio has been inundated with violence, including several domestic abuse cases.

A survivor staying at the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter with her toddler said, sadly, she is not surprised, considering the economic struggle families are experiencing right now.

“It took me like maybe 20 calls before I actually said, ‘Hey, I really just need to go in and be at a shelter,’” she said.

As the woman recovers at the shelter, her identity will remain hidden for her safety.

“I didn’t even know I was being abused until I got here and learned about it,” she said. “It’s not just physical abuse, you know, it’s financial abuse, and it’s emotional abuse and mental abuse. It started getting physical. That’s when I started to seek help,” she said.

The mother said it started going downhill when the pandemic began, which put severe stress on their family financially.

“Me having a degree and not working really played a lot in the blame game of, ‘It’s your fault that we don’t have money.’ But I was willing to work anywhere,” she said.

The woman said her partner wouldn’t let her work or have any type of independence. She wasn’t even allowed to use her phone or a computer because of his jealousy.

“I just wasn’t able to complete the food stamps and Medicaid application process. Or I could never finish school online because of the assumption of something else is going on while I’m on my device,” she said.

The abuse left her fully dependent on him, and they recently began drowning financially.

“Definitely the rise in all the prices of gas and food, of still not having any food stamp assistance or a good-paying job,” she said.

She’s one of many who have had to escape recent stress-induced violence.

“Those numbers have been increasing lately. In the last weeks, they have been increasing,” said Family Violence Prevention Services CEO Marta Pelaez.

Pelaez said her staff at the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter is inundated with calls from victims.

“And they will mention, ‘Well, yes, you know, food is beginning to be an issue with us.’ So we put together some boxes, dry goods, for those families,” Pelaez said.

She wants people to know her office provides much more than shelter. They offer food, medical help, counseling, legal help.

“They do have a hotline that, you know, they can help you when you’re ready. They don’t rush you,” the survivor said.

Pelaez said these increases in calls are common in times of stress, like the holidays or breaks from school when gifts, trips or entertainment are expected.

Domestic violence also spikes every year around times of supposed celebration.

“Fiesta, football season, basketball season. There is a correlation with what happens during those events. Sad to say, alcohol and drugs happen to be the vehicle,” Pelaez said.

The survivor and Pelaez want to send the same message that stress of any kind is never an excuse for violence.

“There are people under the same level of stress living at the same time with everybody else who choose to be respectful, loving members of their families,” Pelaez said.

The survivor said the violence is a choice.

“Ask for help. There are places that can help you bear the economic crisis, but do not take it against those who you claim to love,” she said.

The brave survivor and her child are getting the care they need. She has goals to find work and a home for them as soon as possible. With counseling and shelter, she said she realizes she can do it.

“Nobody really wants to go to a shelter, but it is a lot better than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “Make the call.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with abuse, we have a list of resources on KSAT’s Domestic Violence page.

The Domestic Violence Hotline number is (800)-799-7233.