Fort Bend County DA's office: Increased domestic violence 'collateral consequence' of coronavirus pandemic

The Fort Bend County district attorney’s office saw a 25% increase in domestic violence cases from February to March, Executive Assistant District Attorney Wesley Wittig said in an email. Additionally, from March 2019 to March 2020, the DA’s office saw a 50% increase in domestic violence cases, Wittig said.

Led by District Attorney Brian Middleton, the DA’s office addressed what it called the “collateral consequences” of the coronavirus pandemic in an April 2 press release.

“We are observing an increase in emergency calls for domestic violence here at home, the media is reporting more hate incidents across the nation, and there is a concern that child abuse is being underreported,” the release said.

Ruthanne Mefford, the chief executive officer of Child Advocates of Fort Bend, told Community Impact Newspaper in March that added family stress and coronavirus-mandated stay-at-home orders may lead to her organization seeing an increase in child abuse cases once children return to school.

Both Mefford and Middleton stressed the importance of community members reporting if they have any suspicion of abuse.

“We need to protect our children during this crisis and it is imperative that you report incidents of child abuse to law enforcement or child protective services,” Middleton said in the DA’s office’s release.

Middleton also said in the release that hate incidents toward Asian Americans will not be tolerated in Fort Bend County.

“In fact, crimes targeting anyone because of who they are violate the promise of freedom and personal dignity this country stands for,” Middleton said in the release.

Due to the countywide coronavirus-related disaster declaration, conviction for assault carries a minimum sentence of 180 days in jail, the DA’s office said in the release. Additionally, it encourages people experiencing homelessness, anxiety or feeling out of control to seek help.

By Claire Shoop

Reporter, Northwest Austin

Claire joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2019 as the reporter for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition and in December 2021 moved to Austin to become the reporter for the Northwest Austin edition. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2019 where she studied journalism, government and Arabic. While in school, Claire was a fellow for The Texas Tribune, worked for the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, and spent a semester in Washington, D.C. She enjoys playing cards with her family and listening to the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.