Around 73% of domestic violence deaths in the Houston area between 2019-22 involved guns, according to new research released in October by the Houston Area Women's Center.

In the group's Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2023 Gun Violence Report, the group also found domestic violence incidents account for just under 10% of all crime in the Houston area.

Members of HAWC spoke alongside city of Houston leaders Oct. 9 on the link between domestic violence and guns, and on collaborations with the Houston Police Department.

The big picture

The discussion comes after a University of Houston report in February found Houston-area intimate partner violence had doubled from 2019 to 2022. The presence of a gun in an abusive household increases the risk of homicide by 500%, compared to a household without a gun, HAWC President and CEO Emilee Whitehurst said at the Oct. 9 conference.

Zooming out

Whitehurst raised concerns about a ruling in February by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals finding that alleged domestic abusers have a constitutional right to keep their guns. As a result, someone who has had a protective order filed against them no longer has to surrender their guns, she said. HAWC has launched a petition as the case moves on to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What else

In their 2023 report, HAWC officials also discussed the work of the Domestic Abuse Response Team, a team within HPD that responds to domestic abuse calls with medical professionals in an effort to provide survivors with immediate trauma-informed care.

Over the past year, HPD Chief Troy Finner said DART teams have:
  • Arrived at 1,084 scenes
  • Helped place 404 adults into shelters
Officers who are part of DART teams go through the same training to be trauma-informed as do employees of HAWC. The teams are composed of officers, medical professionals, advocates and people who work directly with HAWC.

"What that means for survivors is that when you enter these systems, you are going to be treated with dignity, and you are going to be treated with respect," said Sonia Corales, HAWC's deputy CEO.

The takeaway

Whitehurst said all services the HAWC offers are free and confidential, including a 24-hour hotline and support for survivors.

The moment someone decides to leave an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous point, Whitehurst said. She urged people in that situation to call the HWAC before leaving. The nonprofit creates personalized safety plans that include assessments of lethality, Whitehurst said.

Those seeking help can contact the HAWC hotline at 713-528-2121 or online at

What's next?

The HAWC is in the process of opening a new facility that will triple the number of shelter beds the group is able to offer. Slated to open at the end of 2024, the new facility will also offer behavioral health and wellness services, a financial center, and a computer lab. The city of Houston contributed $16 million to the project.

The HAWC averages more than 50,000 calls per year on its hotline, officials said.
  • More than half of those calls involve people who are saying they are in dangerous situations and that they have been threatened with guns.
One more thing

On Sept. 15, the city of Houston set aside $1.75 million and issued a notice for organizations to apply for funding to address domestic violence. The goal, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, is to fund new and existing programs that will intervene in communities of color and with other ethic groups to address domestic violence. Turner directed residents to for information on how to apply.