Direct Service Volunteer Shares Her Experience

After closing our family business in 2017, I began to think about the work options available when my daughter-in-law and CASA Board Member told me that Sister Rosemary needed help at the Education Center. Sister interviewed me a the end of August and in September I began volunteering at CASA. The work is rewarding, the ladies, nurturing, and their attitudes very positive. The families we serve have given me a different perspective on domestic violence and the havoc it inflicts on the entire family. The programs and classes offered, however, point to positive outcomes and new beginnings. 

- Elena K. Holloway

Abuso Infantil

En el mes de Abril, se conmemora la prevención al abuso infantil.  ¿Como la violencia doméstica afecta a los niños? Vivir en un ambiente no saludable, puede perjudicar a los niños en su desarrollo a corto o largo plazo.  Desafortunadamente, les puede causar problemas psicológicos, emocionales y físicos. Los niños pueden llegar a sufrir de insomnio, falta de apetito, estrés, ansiedad constante, falta de concentración, entre otros síntomas. 

-Veronica Hernandez
Direct Service Volunteer

Reflections on “In Her Shoes”

On January 23 during the Casa de Misericordia Board of Directors Retreat, we were exposed to an exercise called “In Their Shoes.” My first impression and notion was of annoyance and frustration. We were asked to group read real-life scenarios and walk to different stations to observe various scenarios of a victim of family violence.

I am a 36-year veteran of the Laredo Police Force, including 9 years as a Homicide Detective. I whispered that I had witnessed firsthand and experienced the impact and tragedy of domestic violence (DV), and in all honesty I believed it was a waste of time. Well…I played along…and joined a group with my fellow Board members and read the situational cards and moved along. After the second card/situation I started to get into the mindset of the victim and perpetrator’s actions and rationale. As the experiment progressed I was fully and truly immersed and actually felt, both psychologically and emotionally, as if I was witnessing the relationship gradually deteriorating and worsening including the signs and opportunities missed by other persons that could have helped our Victim who, at the end, died at the hands of her husband. This ‘exercise’ felt personal, as we all developed a kinship and sentiments for the female victim.

I applaud the committee that had the idea and concept of having us “walk through the shoes of a Domestic Violence Victim” – it was an eye-opener and revelation for all of us!! – THANKS FOR A JOB WELL DONE.

- Jesus R. Torres
Casa De Misericordia Board Member
Assistant Chief of Police
Laredo Police Department
FBINA #244

_____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____          _____        

We live in our comfort zone day in and day out, and for most of us with similar tribulations.  We have all heard the quote from prior generations that you will never understand until you walk in someone else's shoes. “In Her Shoes” seemed a simple task - sacrifice an hour or so to group up, read a card about your "given" situation and start making decisions.

Even with several people talking it over in order to make an educated guess, it was not that easy. 

We scrambled around the room as boomerangs flipping between situations - going and coming, staying and leaving, fighting and retreating.  At times, it felt helpless and dead-ended in the corner of the room. Why? These are just words on a card, yet they became more realistic as the scenario evolved. More characters came into the picture and fight or flight responses came into play. You are a woman in a same sex relationship with someone who loves you deeply but demeans you and controls you.  Do you change jobs? Do you leave the relationship or seek counseling to repair it? Do you go home and ask family to help you or give you money?  Do you go get subsidized housing or stay in your home - the one you have created together?

Luckily, our character survived and made it to the next day. The possibility of going back to the abusive relationship was strong, but our character lived to make another decision. Other characters passed away or ended up in more detrimental situations.  There was frustration from not being able to break the cycle.  Every pattern hinged on feelings, money, and most of all SURVIVAL.  As we finished the activity, we wanted to pick up our things, “escape” and run home to remind ourselves that our bubble is the safest and best place to be.

This is only to realize that so many out there are not as lucky. Working with Casa de Misericordia, we meet these women time and again who have similar experiences and have had to reach beyond personal despair.  Language barriers, money limitations and motherly instincts - their steps are one of a kind and their strength unimaginable.  And when they share their true life story with you, you cannot imagine living a day in their shoes.

- Telissa Lueckenotte Molano
Casa de Misericordia Board Member

New Employee at Casa de Misericordia

I recently started working at Casa de Misericordia as the Children’s Services Coordinator on January 2018. In my short time here, I’ve had the opportunity to help children and their families in unique ways. Just this week, I had the chance to take a family out to the park for a kite festival; and in that moment, I got to see the children laughing and smiling, playing with mom as they helped each other get their kites up in the air or out of a tree. This is the job I had been yearning for. I’ve enjoyed my previous jobs very much working as a Youth Director at all 3 of our Boys & Girls Clubs of Laredo and as a Speech Pathologist Assistant for Spanish speaking kids in Houston, Texas. Both jobs in which I got to work with children and make some sort of a difference for them; whether it was helping them finish a school project or helping them produce 3-word utterances and sentences. However, I wanted to do more with my passion to help others. Today, I can wake up every day not knowing what to expect but knowing that I can make some kind of a difference in child or families life. Helping one person might not change the world, but we all can help someone and you never know, it could change the world for them.

- Thelma Arambula

Safe and Healthy Churches Ending Family Violence

In the fall, two Casa de Misericordia coworkers were accompanied by two Casa Board Members to the conference Safe & Healthy Churches Ending Family Violence. The conference was a collaborative effort between the FaithTrust and InFaith Community Foundation, and the opportunity to network with others was beneficial. Those attending the conference participated in an activity called “In Her Shoes,” an activity designed to help advocates for domestic violence victims better understand the constant conflict clients live in regarding whether or not to endure the abuse.

Below is a testimony from Cathey Moore, one of Casa’s Board Members who attended the conference.

Attending the conference, Safe and Healthy Churches Ending Family Violence, was a wonderful experience for me both personally and as a Board Member of Casa de Misericordia. There were probably at least 175 women of faith from all over Texas like me who are active in their own churches as well as some type of shelter. We shared much conversation and I had the opportunity to network and compare Casa to other organizations with similar missions.

Hands down, it was obvious that we have a very special organization right here in Laredo.  Women and their children (and occasionally a man and his children) are treated with the utmost respect and in the best run system anywhere. It is a calm and loving environment.

One activity during the conference was called "In Her Shoes."  This activity was a real eye-opener, showing all attendees what each client experiences from the moment they fall in love, through the repeated abuse and the attempts to seek help and sometimes leave. We were separated into groups with each group “following” a client thru her experience deciding whether or not to leave. It is a nerve-racking process as you go with her through each phase. It was such a touching and powerful experience that those of us from Laredo thought it would be an excellent activity for our full board.

In January "In Her Shoes" was the central activity for our Annual Board Retreat. Without exception, the Board members were moved by the experience. We as board members now have a better understanding as to what our clients go through and understand why it is sometimes easier just to return to the perpetrator.

-Cathey Moore

New Privacy Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

The right to privacy is a fundamental right enjoyed by all Americans. However, this vital right has often become the first thing to vanish for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It has been said that rape is the only crime in which the victim is treated like a suspect. Until the emergence of the #MeToo movement, a victim’s denouncement of sexual assault routinely was treated with suspicion, with every detail of her or his behavior questioned: What was the victim wearing? Was the victim drinking? Did the victim invite the assault? Does the victim want publicity, money, or attention? Domestic violence victims often have faced similarly skeptical  responses: It takes two to tango. The victim probably encouraged it, or the victim is trying to get an advantage in the custody or the divorce case.

Not only is every peccadillo of a victim’s life often scrutinized and exposed for the world to see, even actions that our society values and encourages – like seeking the life-saving services of domestic violence programs and rape crisis centers – can become minefields for victims. The defenders of accused assailants have often sought records from domestic violence and rape crisis centers in order to meticulously cross-examine the behavior or record of victims, or to completely discredit them. In effect, the painful experiences that victims shared at crisis centers become fodder in defense of the people who assaulted them. Attorneys prosecuting the assailants have also sought records from crisis centers in their efforts to establish elements of the crimes.

So how do we protect the records of victims’ most vulnerable moments from being used against them? How do we make sure they can confidently access the services they desperately need to restore their lives?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA) recognize the courage that it takes for victims to come forward to seek assistance.  They acknowledge that by seeking services, survivors self-identify as victims of highly stigmatized crimes. Victims also expose the emotional and physical scars left by the violence. And the release of victims’ information creates a safety risk for them. As such, VAWA,  FVPSA and later the Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA) imposed strict confidentiality restrictions as a condition of any grants released to crisis centers and authorized the release of victim information only under the most limited circumstances –  namely, the client’s express written consent; statutory requirement (i.e. duty to report child and elder abuse); or by a court order. 

Most domestic violence programs and rape crisis centers in Texas receive VAWA, FVPSA, and VOCA funding.  Article I, Section 30 of the Texas Constitution guarantees victims the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice process. However, there are no provisions addressing how that right to privacy can be enforced or defining penalties for violating the same.  The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 56.09 requires that as much as it is reasonably practical, the address of the victim may not be a part of the court file, except as it is necessary to identify the place of the crime. Nor can the phone number of the victim be a part of the court file.  Until September 1, 2017, these protections – victim-centered grant conditions which could be overruled by court order, and unenforceable and very limited protections for the confidentiality of the victim’s address and phone number – were the only legal mechanisms for protecting victims’ private experiences.

Then, during the past legislative session something remarkable happened. Texas joined at least 28 other states in extending the protection of legal privilege to communications between victims and advocates of domestic violence programs. State Representative Abel Herrero, of Corpus Christi, authored the Victim Information Privacy (VIP) bill (HB 3649), which was filed on March 9, 2017, signed by the governor on June 15, and took effect on Sept. 1. The VIP Act (VIPA) amended Subtitle C, Title 4 of the Texas Family Code to create Chapter 93, which establishes privilege for written and oral communications exchanged between a victim of family violence and an advocate at a family violence center.  In other words, confidentiality of the painful, intensely private experiences that victims often share with advocates at crisis centers is now legally protected.

The law is new, and there’s still much work to be done to implement it and educate prosecutors, courts, and the private bar, but it’s already available for victims.  Domestic violence programs have been required by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to update and revise their policies to reflect the change in the law by Feb. 28.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) has been proud to work alongside the Texas Council on Family Violence to educate domestic violence programs regarding the new privacy law and has been responding to subpoenas issued to its partner domestic violence programs.  We are encouraged by the response from the courts, but most importantly we are encouraged by the effect the new privacy law has had on victims. Victims can now feel safe accessing life-saving services at domestic violence programs. They need not fear that the information they share will be used against them. 

If you would like to schedule a training regarding the new Victim Information Privacy Act, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

- Maricarmen Garza