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Bill that would require Texas judges to receive training for family violence cases headed to Gov. Abbott's desk

If the bill is signed into law, the new training will help judges understand cases better and help them provide resources to survivors.


Texas judges could soon get new training to help them with family violence cases.

Senate Bill 855 passed both the House and Senate and is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. If signed into law, it will add training for judges on things like human trafficking and available state resources and protections for victims of family violence and sexual assault. It will also explain what grooming is and the impacts of substance abuse on an unborn child. 

Advocates who help those impacted by family violence say they've been following this bill closely. They say it will help judges better understand their cases and the trauma survivors endure. 

"It's super important for judges to get this training because there's so many complexities in these cases – of not just the children but the families' lives. And to really understand the issue is going to better inform them on how best to serve the children," said Lindsey Wilkerson with Children At Risk, a non-partisan research and advocacy nonprofit.

Wilkerson also serves as the interim director for the Texas Family Leadership Council, a statewide collaboration of child and family-focused organizations that address issues impacting children and families. She said now that this bill has passed and could soon become law, the council is looking forward to how it will help its clients.

"I think it will provide an extra lens for the judges, and they're able to be more understanding of the circumstances that the children are experiencing," Wilkerson said. "Also [what] the family as a whole is facing, being able to adapt to making sure that they're trauma-informed, that they're not retraumatizing a child who's experienced something horrific already." 

The Texas Advocacy Project provides free legal services for all types of family and domestic violence. Bronwyn Blake, chief legal officer for the organization, said this training will be important to help judges make better decisions because the dynamics of these issues aren't intuitive. 

"In the past, if we wanted to try to educate a judge about an issue during a case, we would have to bring in and qualify an expert witness for every single case. Someone to come in and teach the judge in that case what they needed to know," Blake said. "If all judges in Texas get this training from the get-go, it's just much more effective and efficient."

According to background information provided by the office of State Sen. Carol Alvarado, who authored the bill, domestic violence situations can turn lethal because victims are afraid to reveal the true extent of their abuse in court. This training aims to help judges make survivors more comfortable. 

It also aims to help judges understand the resources available for survivors' needs during the case. 

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