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Dating violence education bill to go into effect, but parents have the option to opt-out

A San Antonio city councilman is working to ensure schools at all levels in the city provide age-appropriate education on family violence and child abuse.

SAN ANTONIO — A new Texas law will require schools to give students resources and education on dating violence and other forms of abuse.

But under the law, parents have the option to opt out of the education, something that one city councilman feels is critical to preventing domestic violence and child abuse.

Geneece Goertzen is a Texas mom, and a domestic violence survivor of more than two decades.

“Domestic violence isn’t something you always recognize right away. Sometimes it’s a slow building of toxic behavior over many years. People who have been in domestic violence situations for a long time, a lot of times they don’t recognize verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, and spiritual abuse as abuse,” Goertzen said.

She’s now pursuing a master’s degree to work with domestic violence advocacy.

Education and discussing the issues is critical to her.

“Unfortunately, abuse is still a very taboo topic. And it’s like, what happens at home stays at home is kind of the theory, and that’s not okay. It needs to be a conversation that people have in many places,” Goertzen believes.

In San Antonio—city councilman Manny Pelaez wants to address the issue on several fronts.

“The county and city have been leaning into this problem very intentionally over the past four years since I’ve gotten here, but it’s not enough,” Pelaez said.

In October he submitted three council consideration requests.

One requires schools and universities getting city funding to provide family violence and education, one focuses on adding signage in public places to spread awareness of resources for domestic violence victims

It’s a response to the option to opt out under the state law Senate Bill 9. A previous version of the bill was vetoed without that provision by Governor Greg Abbott.

“Now is the time for us to begin again to pull from every single lever to address this problem, its’ not getting better, it’s getting worse,” Pelaez said.

Pelaez agrees that the often-hushed conversation needs to be discussed—and should be age appropriate.

Goertzen is concerned what it might mean if a parent opted out of these teachings.

“If the child does not know what an abusive relationship looks like…They will be missing that vital piece of knowledge that may help them get to safety in the future,” Goertzen said.

She says education and awareness are key to keeping families and loved ones safe.

“I think if people are willing to reach out to a trusted member of the community, then maybe they can take steps in their life to become safe,” Goertzen said.

The City of San Antonio has several resources available to those who may be suffering from abuse or domestic violence.