Family Violence and COVID-19
This material was compiled by TexasLawHelp and was last updated on May 1, 2020.
For help finding a shelter or other services, see TexasLawHelp's Domestic Violence. Free Legal Help for Victims and Survivors page.
There are several Texas-wide free, confidential resources that remain open and available to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, such as:
- Texas Advocacy Project, 800-374-HOPE (4673)
- Texas Legal Services Center Crime Victims, (844) 303-SAFE (7233) (or contact them online through this form). Can file protective order applications and assist with safety planning for victims who are not able to leave a dangerous living situation.
- The Network continues to provide legal assistance to sexual survivors. for Survivors of Sexual Assault
The National is one starting point for people experiencing family violence during COVID-19. Hotline
This COVID-19 Family Violence Safety Planning Checklist can help you plan to leave a dangerous situation.
If you are able to find a safe way to contact an organization that helps domestic violence victims, they can help you make a plan to stay safe under your unique circumstances.
- Know the safest place in the home. Avoid places like the kitchen, bathroom, and garage where hard surfaces and objects that can be used as weapons are.
- Have a safety plan. Know where your keys and important papers are and keep them where you can grab them quickly.
- If it is not safe to use your phone or computer to look for resources, ask a friend or family member to do it for you so they can share it with you in a phone conversation at a safe time.
- Have a secret code word with a friend or family member that will let them know to send help.
- Prepare for a situation where an abuser might hide essential supplies and/or prohibit you from leaving the home to access essential supplies.
- Get outdoors, if you can. Staying home together provides more opportunity for conflict and for those disagreements to escalate. Take a walk, if you can, to allow some time for things to de-escalate.
- Keep your gas tank full with your car backed into your parking place in case you have to make a quick escape in your car.
- If you can make plans to leave your abuser safely for a shelter or to stay with a friend or family member, do so. Remember: Never tell the person hurting you that you plan to leave.
- In an emergency, call 911.
See Surviving Domestic Abuse During “Stay Home” Orders: Tips on Staying Safe (from Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) and Resources for Safety Planning: Information to Help Build an Abusive Relationship Safety Plan (a video from Lone Star Legal Aid).
See Information for Survivors of Sexual Assault During COVID-19, an article written by the Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault, for answers to questions such as:
- Where can I get legal help if I am sexually assaulted during COVID-19?
- How do I find my local rape crisis center?
- What can a rape crisis center help with?
- If I am sexually assaulted during COVID-19 can I still get a SANE exam?
- Can I have an advocate from a rape crisis center with me during a SANE exam during COVID-19?
- How do I stay safe during a shelter in place order? What if I am stuck at home with an abuser?
- How do I find a shelter?
- Are shelters still open during COVID-19?
If you’re in an emergency situation and need immediate help, call 911.
The following are safety planning resources:
- Staying Safe During COVID-19, provided by the National . Hotline
- Interactive safety plan from loveisrespect.
- Technology Safety & Privacy: A Toolkit for Survivors (National Network to End )
- Seeking Help Online: National Resources & Considerations for Safety and Privacy During a Public Health Crisis (National Network to End ).
Click here to access the Family Violence Program to locate temporary shelter and supportive services.
You can also call 2-1-1, or visit 2-1-1 Texas, enter your zip code and select Housing/Shelter.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 (TTY), or text LOVEIS to 22522.
Yes, shelters are open and are providing residential and non-residential services. Some shelters are providing these services in a modified way during this time.
It’s best to call the specific shelter to find out what services are available and how to access them.
It doesn’t. The Texas Supreme Court issued several emergency orders saying that for determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the existing trial April 27, 2020, in effect until July 15, 2020:controls in all instances. The Texas Supreme emphasized this with another
In determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a courtordered possession schedule in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, the existing trial court order shall control in all instances. Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity that arises from the pandemic. The original published school schedule shall also control, and possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from the pandemic. Nothing herein prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if allowed by their court order(s), or courts from modifying their orders on an emergency basis or otherwise.
You may be able to file a motion to modify your custody order if you no longer believe it is safe for you or your child to follow it.
This video created by addresses of Northwest Texas issues that come up during the COVID-19 crisis, such as:
- COVID-19 Family Violence FAQs - Legal Aid of Northwest Texas video
- What should I do if I want to leave an abusive situation right now?
- What is a protective order?
- Are there different types of protective orders?
- Are courts open now for getting protective orders?
- May I still file a protective order on my own during the pandemic if my court is closed to the public?
- What if I have children with my abuser?
- What about other types of cases besides protective orders? Are courts still hearing divorce and custody cases?