Photo courtesy of Christine Sanchez

HB467: New Texas Law Extends Time to File Family Violence Cases

Words by Sammy Jo Cienfuegos

Edited by Abigail Vela

House Bill (HB) 467 was signed into law on Tuesday, May 23, by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and finally went into effect on September 1. 

 

HB 467 changes the statute of limitations for certain criminal offenses based on assaultive conduct, including family violence cases. Previously, the statute of limitations was two years for misdemeanor cases and three years for felony cases. Now, survivors of family violence will have three years for misdemeanor cases and five years for felony cases. While a 1-2 year change may not seem like a lot, it allows survivors extra time to process their trauma, devise a safety plan, and decide if reporting is the right decision for them. 

 

“When it comes to victims failing to report abuse, a variety of factors are at work. Victims may feel ashamed or blame themselves, or they may fear that no one will believe them or that they will be victimized. The victims frequently find it difficult to report the abusive behavior because the perpetrators continue to have control over their lives, especially in situations where they are family members of the abuser or have relationships with him or her in other ways,” shares Alma Guerrero, Coordinator of Community Education for Mujeres Unidas, a non-profit dedicated to providing a safe haven to survivors of family violence. 

 

Guerrero adds, “Due to the complexity of the issue, it may take a victim of domestic violence days, months, or even years to process the traumatic event. We can’t just get over trauma or tell ourselves to stop thinking about it. It entails accepting that you were abused, working through your feelings, coping with the unwanted emotions or symptoms associated with domestic violence (such as nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.), and ultimately taking back control of your life.”

The Texas Capitol building in 2023, with maintenance being done on its facade.
Photo courtesy of Christine Sanchez

HB 467 will allow survivors more time to leave an abusive situation. It will grant agencies like Mujeres Unidas more time to advocate for survivors as they work towards taking back control of their lives. While the House Bill is just one step in the right direction, it comes at a time when family violence cases are at an all-time high.


Domestic abuse has been an issue since the dawn of time. One of the earliest accounts of it is recorded in the
Code of Hammurabi, which were several laws used to govern Babylon from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C. These laws were modeled after the age-old saying, “an eye for an eye,” and were extremely violent in nature and, of course, only applied to men. Women and children were seen as property, and violence disguised as discipline was explicitly mandated.

Today, society’s customs are not so different, even given the fact that women have made strides regarding their personal freedoms and rights.
 

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States experience intimate partner violence, intimate partner sexual assault, or intimate partner stalking during their lifetime. It is important to note that many cases go unreported, so these numbers are actually much higher. But for the purpose of this article, let’s assume these statistics are exact. 

If the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) is made up of 1.4 million people, including about 715,301 women and 688,924 men, this would mean that about 254,647 women and 196,343 men living in the RGV have experienced some sort of intimate partner violence. 

These numbers should be of extreme concern. If those high numbers were caused by anything else, like a pandemic caused by an infectious viral disease, changes would be put into place. After only 118,000 confirmed cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Why isn’t more apprehension and caution given to the domestic violence pandemic the world has faced for millenniums?

While HB 467 is an important advancement for survivors, the Texas legislature must take this issue more seriously and put additional safeguards in place to protect survivors. 

For now, survivors may seek support from various organizations that will help them move forward in their journey toward healing and justice. Guerrero said it best when she shared, “Abuse thrives in silence. Breaking the silence encourages others in escaping it.”

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