FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The number of intimate partner homicides spiked to the highest number on record for Tarrant County, according to a recent report released by SafeHaven of Tarrant County.

The second annual Fatality Review report is made up of data from SafeHaven, the Tarrant County District Attorney, JPS Hospital Systems, local police departments and other collaborating organizations.

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According to the report, 17 victims died at the hands of their intimate partner in 2020, which is more than double the amount the year before.

“The numbers were very high,” said Kathryn Jacobs, the president and CEO of SafeHaven.

Domestic violence cases and services were heavily impacted by the pandemic. COVID-19 contributed to a rise in calls to SafeHaven’s domestic violence hotline and in requests for shelter.

Jacobs says outside factors like the pandemic, unemployment or substance abuse don’t cause domestic violence, but they can make it worse.

“They can be triggers in a relationship that already is dealing with issues of power and control,” Jacobs said. “…For much of 2020, we were all pretty isolated. We weren’t going to church, we weren’t going to the grocery store, we weren’t going to work inside an office. And so, victims were stuck at home with their abusers. It took them a lot of hard work to figure out how to stay safe.”

Leaving an abuser doesn’t always mean safety.

Of the 17 intimate partner homicides in 2020, 12 cases involved couples who were dating. Five were married.

(credit: SafeHaven of Tarrant County​)

According to the report, the majority of relationships had actually ended before the murder.

The most dangerous time in a relationship marred by violence is typically when it ends and in the three months that follow.

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“It’s really important to understand victims do what is safest for them at the time,” Jacobs said. “Leaving is a process. It’s not a decision that happens at three in the morning, spontaneously out of nowhere.”

That fatality review found the youngest victim of intimate partner homicide was 21 years old and the oldest was 67.

Nine were shot to death.

“What that is saying is that if you own a gun and you’re a domestic violence abuser, the chance of that relationship ending in homicide increase,” said Jacobs.

Advocates say one of the most heartbreaking things to come out of this report is that none of the victims utilized a domestic violence hotline, shelter or other social support service before their death.

“I think when people don’t come to us, it’s for one of two reasons,” Jacobs said. “One, they didn’t know we existed. Or two, they weren’t in a safe enough place where they could safely exit a relationship.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. SafeHaven wants more people to know there is help available.

The number for SafeHaven’s domestic violence hotline is 877-701-7233.

The organization runs two emergency shelters in Tarrant County and offers a wide variety of other programs and services for people in abusive relationships.

READ FATALITY REVIEW REPORT HERE

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