TX House passes Domestic Violence Registry bill

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SHERMAN, TX -- Cases of domestic violence continue to rise in Texas. Now two lawmakers have introduced a bill in hopes of reducing the number of re-occuring cases -- by publicly shaming domestic violence offenders.

House Bill 21 would create a public domestic violence registry in Texas similar to DPS's sexual predator registry. The House has already approved the bill, but some say this system would be too risky.

According to Texas DPS records, the number of family violence incidents reported in 2011 was nearly 178,000 and 142 women were killed.

State Representatives Jason Villalba and Trey Martinez-Fischer co-authored House Bill 21. They say the spike in these crimes. particularly ending in homicide by repeat offenders, prompted the proposal for an online database.

It would hold the names, pictures and list of offenses of those who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes three or more times.

"What we have found is that those individuals that have been convicted three times or more are very likely to commit, or continue to commit these crimes unless they are stopped," Rep. Jason Villalba said.

"We know that domestic violence is a serious problem here," Rachel Morgan said.

The director of the Ella Mae Brown Crisis Center, Rachel Morgan, is well aware of the problem but says this database is not the answer. Morgan says most family violence cases are not reported and convictions are hard to come by. So, the database may not be as useful as intended.

"So, requiring that they not only be reported but that they be convicted three times for something, it happens but it certainly isn't all encompassing," she said.

Villalba agrees that convictions rates are low, and would eventually like to enact bills that allow for easier convictions of these crimes.

"But, until we get to that point this is a way to warn the community about people who are serial abusers. And also to provide an element of shame for these individuals who perpetrate these kinds of crimes," Villalba said.

But Morgan believes the public shaming is not worth the risk of revealing the victim's identity. She says the crisis center stays full, and their programs and counseling services are always in need.

"We would rather the energy and the resources be put on full funding for the programs that are already in place and that have some proven success," she said.

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