North Texas Domestic Violence Survivor Starts Fighting Back

Dec 10, 2010 by

ROWLETT, TX WOMAN ALMOST KILLED IN APRIL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO HOLD FUND-RAISER FOR NEW NON-PROFIT
Veronica Galaviz Launches LivingToShare.org, Establishing Non-Profit

DALLAS: Veronica Galaviz, the Rowlett woman nearly murdered by her estranged husband in April, 2010 will hold the first fund-raiser for her new non-profit organization, Living To Share, Saturday night in Addison. 

Earlier this week, Galaviz announced she has created a Website and non-profit organization to raise awareness about domestic violence and to help other victims.

The Saturday evening event will be held at the Addison Pointe Sports Bar and Grill located at 4578 Belt Line Road at 7 p.m.

“Saturday night’s event is a big step in our efforts to begin to raise awareness about Domestic Violence from the perspective of a survivor,” Galaviz said.  “We have a lot of work ahead with the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature.  Already this week, we’ve heard of some great changes that are going to be proposed in the 2011 session about stalking and obtaining a protective order.”

Galaviz has created LivingToShare.org, a Website she is using to raise awareness about the dangers of domestic abuse and how even when armed with laws and orders designed to protect men and women worried about domestic violence reoccurring, little happens.

Donations can be sent to Living To Share, PO Box 861885, Plano, TX 75086-1885.

Since announcing her organization Tuesday, Galaviz has received three invitations to speak to local and state organizations in the coming months.  Two of those requests have come from Dallas County law enforcement offices.

“Already this week we’re beginning to see opportunities presenting themselves that will help officers in law enforcement better understand domestic violence from the perspective of a survivor,” Galaviz said.  “After eight months of trying to put my life back together, this is an incredible turn of events.”

About 1:25 a.m. April 21, Galaviz awoke to find her estranged husband in her home and armed with a shotgun.  He told Galaviz that he was going to kill her.  Galaviz says thankfully she had a friend also in the home and began to fend off her husband but he was shot in the hand in the process.  Galaviz and her friend were able to escape the home and call authorities.  When the Rowlett Fire Department arrived at the home at 1:44 a.m., it was engulfed in flames and her husband was found dead inside.

Part of Galaviz’s conflict remains that she repeatedly notified the Rowlett Police Department of her husband’s violations of a protective order she obtained in November 2009 through divorce attorney Julie Lucio.   Each time she confronted the RPD they told her that her husband hadn’t done enough to warrant his arrest so he could be brought before the judge who issued the protective order.

Veronica Galaviz

After surviving an attack in her home on April 21, 2010 by her estranged husband, Veronica Galaviz now seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of domestic violence, increase victims’ rights, implement tougher enforcement of protective orders and sensitivity training for police officers who respond to domestic violence complaints, and offer educational grants to victims allowing them to obtain financial independence and freedom from their abusers.

Claxton Creative, LLC

Claxton Creative is a DFW-area based public relations firm focused on Social impact, innovation and invention.  Owned by former political advisor and Dallas ISD spokesman Donald Claxton, the company specializes in social media and traditional mediums to market and brand products domestically and internationally.  The company provides PR services for brands, bloggers, businesses and school districts.

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Woman Almost Killed By Estranged Husband In April Launches Domestic Violence Site

Dec 7, 2010 by

Rowlett Woman Almost Killed By Estranged Husband In April Launches Domestic Violence Site
Veronica Galaviz Launches LivingToShare.org, Establishing Non-Profit

DALLAS: Veronica Galaviz, the Rowlett woman nearly murdered when her estranged husband broke into her home in the middle of the night on April 21, 2010 and set the house on fire before shooting himself, announced Tuesday she has created a Website to raise awareness about domestic violence and the poor enforcement of protective orders, and she is establishing a non-profit to help other victims and seek changes in Texas law.

“During the summer and fall I’ve made contact with key members of the Texas Legislature and asked them to investigate what can be done about laws in Texas that allow protective orders to be a little more than expensive pieces of paper that tend to be all but ignored by law enforcement,” Galaviz said.  “Sadly, reaction from some members of the Legislature has been that the laws are working; but I’m evidence that there’s a big problem, and I’m lucky to be alive to share. I wasn’t killed on that night in April for a reason.”

Galaviz has created LivingToShare.org, a Website she is using to raise awareness about the dangers of domestic abuse and how even when armed with laws and orders designed to protect men and women worried about domestic violence reoccurring, very little happens.

“I’ve met with district attorneys in Texas who have said that something needs to be done to give laws that protect victims of domestic violence with greater protections and also seek to give police officers responding to claims of domestic violence with a better understanding of what their role is in the process,” Galaviz said.

About 1:25 a.m. April 21, Galaviz awoke to find her estranged husband in her home and armed with a shotgun.  He told Galaviz that he was going to kill her.  Galaviz says thankfully she had a friend also in the home and began to fend off her husband but he was shot in the hand in the process.  Galaviz and her friend were able to escape the home and call authorities.  When the Rowlett Fire Department arrived at the home at 1:44 a.m., it was engulfed in flames and her husband was found dead inside.

Part of Galaviz’s conflict remains that she repeatedly notified the Rowlett Police Department of her husband’s violations of a protective order she obtained in November 2009 through divorce attorney Julie Lucio.   Each time she confronted the RPD they told her that her husband hadn’t done enough to warrant his arrest so he could be brought before the judge who issued the protective order.

Galaviz has an upcoming event in Addision, Texas on Dec. 11th at the Addison Pointe Sports Bar and Grill located at 4578 Belt Line Road at 7 p.m.

Veronica Galaviz

After surviving an attack in her home on April 21, 2010 by her estranged husband, Veronica Galaviz now seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of domestic violence, increase victims’ rights, implement tougher enforcement of protective orders and sensitivity training for police officers who respond to domestic violence complaints, and offer educational grants to victims allowing them to obtain financial independence and freedom from their abusers.

Claxton Creative, LLC

Claxton Creative, LLC is a DFW-area based public relations firm focused on Social impact, innovation and invention.  Owned by former political advisor and Dallas ISD spokesman Donald Claxton, the company specializes in social media and traditional mediums to market and brand products domestically and internationally.  The company provides PR services for brands, bloggers, businesses and school districts.

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Catching Up With Veronica Galaviz In August

Aug 3, 2010 by

It’s been a few weeks since Veronica Galaviz and I have been able to sit down at our Starbucks meeting place and just talk.   Monday, Aug. 2, we got the chance to do so.  It’s been almost four months since her late husband broke into the house in the middle of the night, tried to shoot her, and then lit the house on fire and shot himself to death.

From just a few days since the disaster, Veronica and I have been friends, and I’ve been able to watch her go through the recovery process.  I’ve taken her donated clothes from friends, helped bring attention to her situation as it involved the Rowlett Police, and been able to see and hear her speak to a small group of concerned citizens at the Limestone County Texas Courthouse.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve also been working with her to get James Claxton (no relation) to begin demolition on her house.  That process began last Thursday.

Not surprisingly, Vero hasn’t been out to watch any of the demolition.  I’ve been out each day of the process and have taken photos along the way.  There will be a video of the demolition process for Claxton’s Demolition Services when they’re finished, and there are a couple hundred photos I’ve taken as it’s progressed.

As you will recall, back in June Veronica and I made our way through the home.  That’s such a powerful video and I’m going to include it once again in this post, too.

MONDAY

During our visit Monday, it was obvious that Veronica still is painfully struggling with her recovery.  She’s gone through ups and downs and is nursing her way toward getting back to work and trying to resume some sort of normalcy in her life.

After having lost her pets in the fire, she’s now been able to get two cats named Ben and Jerry.  She’s had friends come to see her who have taken her out to begin the rebuilding of her wardrobe.  And she’s replaced her car that was destroyed in the fire.  Those have all been big steps for her.  Even sitting there talking to her, she gave me a smile every once in a while as she talked, but she said smiles are hard to come by these days.  And they’re mostly forced.

But she’s looking great on the outside.  When she walked in the door every guys’ head in the place turned to look at her.  I told her a few women looked, too.  That got a smile that didn’t seem forced.

She’s working her way back to work.  I know that, too, is going to be a monumental milestone for her, just to walk back into her offices again and to try to not think about quarrels with insurance companies for the car, the house, you name it.  Soon, hopefully, there will be no more letters from the city threatening to start fining her for not having the house torn down already because the insurance companies were taking their bureaucratic sweet time.  I didn’t tell her there also was a freakin sign in front of the house that James found the other day telling her she had to get her grass mowed–what little of it remains.  I understand that, to a degree.  But I will tell you this, I’ll never move to Rowlett, Texas. Not after the way they’ve handled her pleas for protection, hounded her about getting her house torn down, and now, worrying about the grass–the equivalent of worrying about which way the deck chairs of the Titanic were facing when it sunk.

Her neighbors are glad to see the house coming down, too. I get that.  It’s been almost four months with them having to look at a burn out.  It’s not been safe for the neighborhood.  (In another city, James said he walked around the back of a house he was about to tear down and found a buck naked man giving himself a bath with two 5-gallon buckets of water.  He said the local PD there were being nice to him by not arresting him.  He’s homeless and had been beaten up pretty badly a few weeks ago.  They asked him to collect what little he has and to move along.) The neighbors remain close-knit, and they’ve been protective of what happens at her house since the day or so after when I went by there to take pictures for her attorney’s office and a man from down the street called the police because I was standing in the street taking photos.

During our hour-and-a-half-long chat on Monday, Vero and I talked about how to move forward with her desires to strengthen laws associated with protective order enforcement, etc. We’ve got a lot of work ahead, but it all needs to remain balanced.  There are just some things she’s not going to be ready for, and for quite a while.

And as our time wound down, I began to ask her about things that have nothing to do with her ordeal.  Have you been to a movie lately?  Yes, she saw Eclipse.  Gone on any trips?  Might be going to see friends soon.  Been to see friends?  Was going to a dinner party that night–the first one in a long time.

It’s hard to get someone to think about something like parties, trips and movies when they’re in the midst of a emotional storm hopefully almost none of us ever will have to weather.  Even for me, who usually can come up with great questions to ask, I felt a little flat.

I cannot imagine what she’s been through and continues to endure.  And the question we all would find ourselves asking–Why?–just doesn’t seem to have a good answer.

Here’s the video again from May. It’s still just as powerful as it was two months ago:

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Veronica Galaviz, 60 days after her estranged husband’s attempted murder-suicide visits the ashes

Jun 19, 2010 by

UPDATE:  The video from June 19th’s visit is now posted below. You’ll want to see it.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 60 days since since her estranged husband broke into the home of Veronica Galaviz, and tried to kill her before setting her house on fire and then committing suicide, but that’s what happened on April 21, 2010. The story of her estranged husband’s repeated violations of a court-ordered but unenforced protective order at the hands of the Rowlett, Texas Police Department is hard to hear.

After repeated reported violations of a judge’s November 2009 order, instead of arresting her husband and letting a judge decide the facts of the matter, the RPD decided that was their job and that there wasn’t enough evidence, even with Ms. Galaviz’s testimony that it was indeed him in her driveway clearly stabbing the rear right tire of a car parked in front of her home.

I became acquainted with Ms. Galaviz through our mutual attorney, Julie Lucio of Lucio, LeFleur & Associates.

News Conference

The day of the event in Rowlett, I was contacted by Julie Lucio and we agreed to hold a news conference as soon as possible to help raise awareness about what did not happen in Ms. Galaviz’s case–she was not protected by the Rowlett Police Department by their failing to enforce the Dallas County Protective Order. The PD’s response to our  news event was that they felt they’d investigated the matter thoroughly and that had they been able to find any conclusive evidence, they’d have leaped into action. Even though Ms. Galaviz’s concerns had been validated in the worst way, there was no statement of regret from the police.

During the news conference, and you can read this article that was published about a week later, Ms. Lucio contends the police didn’t do what they were supposed to do in this matter–when a person reports that a protective order is violated, they’re supposed to make the arrest and let the judge in the case decide whether or not there’s been a violation.

Our Mission To Raise Awareness

Henceforth, I shall refer to Ms. Galaviz as “Vero.”   That’s the name I’ve come to know her by over the past 58 days.  Vero knows in her heart that God has given her a second chance to live in order that she might do his will and help make a difference in this area of concern. Twice we have sat for a couple of hours in a local Starbucks and talked about what happened, how she’s recovering, and more importantly, what to do next.

During our first meeting we talked mostly about a broader vision and made a general plan of action that included reaching out to local domestic violence centers, reaching out to a  local legislator to talk about what might could be done from a legislative standpoint, and just talked about how she was coping.   It was also around this time that I was able to get her several bags of clothes from friends who wore her size.  She was still struggling with having escaped with the clothes on her back.

The second time we met, she’d been doing some research and found the statutes in Texas law that apply to victim’s rights, protective orders and criminal procedure–Articles 56.02, 56.04, 56.07 and 56.08.

It was during this meeting that Vero talked about what she says that’s greatly wrong for most victims of domestic abuse: She said most victims are too in shock over an incident to make a call to the police.  She said if not that, they’re also afraid to make a call to authorities for fear of retribution after the police have come and gone.  And she said the other internal argument is that “if I avoid it and not call the police, there’s the hope that it will all just go away.”

Day 59–Meeting Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas

From my days as the communications director of Dallas ISD, I remain good friends with Rep. Rafael Anchia, who in the early days of my time in DISD was one of the district’s trustees.  His chief of staff is Liz Zornes, the wife of former DISD Board President, Ken Zornes, who I always had a very open and candid relationship with while he was on the board.  As a result of the first meeting with Vero, I contacted Liz and asked for a meeting with Rep. Anchia.  Yesterday, Vero, myself and Rep. Anchia met in his Dallas office for about 30 minutes and set a new strategy in place.

It’s time for some additional research.  Maybe I should have been doing more of that over the past 50 or so days, but Rep. Anchia quickly developed a plan of which I shall discuss further in a future post.   But with his help, we are now moving closer to putting into motion what Vero feels called to make happen and that is quite fulfilling.

But there was one thing we’ve been talking about that up until this morning we’d not done–Go back out to the house and do a video about going through it.

Day 60–Returning to the Ashes

This morning at 9 a.m. Vero and I met at what’s left of her house in Rowlett.  As noted before, her estranged husband broke in about 1:30 a.m. on April 21, 2010 and attempted to shoot Vero with a shotgun.  She was able to get out of the house and run next door for the neighbors to call the police.  While next door, he lit the house on fire and then turned the shotgun on himself.

The video I shot is being edited and will be put up here only with the permission of Vero.  As you can imagine, today’s visit was very hard for her.  Repeatedly on videotape today she said, “Instead of getting easier, it get’s harder and harder to come out here.”

In the fire, Vero lost her dog, Sam, who was in a crate in the living room.  She lost her composure when she stood in the spot where Sam died.  The photo you see of her kneeling is her still feeling the grief of her dog being gone.  She also lost her cat, Lilly, in the fire.  She doesn’t know if Lilly was killed inside the home or was able to escape and find another home in the neighborhood.  She has no closure on this loss. (UPDATE: Per Vero’s sister, I would like to add her dear cat Molly was lost in the fire as well as her friend David’s dog.)

We arrived out front and walked to the back left of the home.  The wooden fence of her backyard is charred and half burnt.  The windows of the house are gone and the roof has collapsed on most of the house.  Within just a few moments, Vero was in tears.  Using discretion, I’d record her when she talked, and turn the camera away and off when she could not hold back the emotions.  She wants her story told, but she also wants to continue to heal and find something of an inner peace.  I did my best to respect that.

We walked into what’s left of her bedroom.  She said it was here, facing the doorway to the living room, where she met her estranged husband that night.  When she opened her door, he was standing in the living room with a shotgun pointed at her face yelling that he was going to kill her.  What he didn’t know, was that Vero’s close friend, David, was also staying in the house.  He came from his blindside and began to wrestle with him and the gun.  This is what allowed Vero to get past him and run for help.

David, however, has lost much of his pinky on one hand.  It was shot off by the shot gun.  But he also was able to get out of the house and flee toward next door with Vero’s husband shooting at him twice before he went over the fence of the next yard.

It was then that Vero believes he went back into the house, doused it with gasoline, lit the fire, and then shot himself.  The house immediately was engulfed in flames and Sam, the dog,  and a couple other animals in the home also passed away.   Vero still calls her pets “her babies.”  And she still goes to tears when ever she refers to them.(The photo to the right is her kneeling in the area where Sam’s crate was.) 

After walking through the ashes of the bedroom, her living room and past what’s left of her kitchen (the TV, oven and fridge are all melted metal–and her large leather sofa is nothing now but ashes and a series of metal wires and levers all rusting  away in the rubble.  You can see one of the rusting levers of a recliner next to her in the photo to the right.)

Into the foyer we walked and stopped to look into what once was her dining room.  Immediately, I began to smell a foul odor and before I could say anything, she said, “This is where they found his remains.”  I’d never smelt the smell of burnt death before, but have read about it in novels.  It’s not a pleasant smell.  We moved on to the guest bedroom, guest bath, laundry room, and into her office area.  There is something about French Doors that I just enjoy, and even with her’s being singed and missing their glass or lattice work, there was still something inviting about what clearly had been her workspace.

On Vero’s desk were several framed photos.  The first one she turned over was a picture of her and her husband during happier times.  She held it contemptuously for a moment and then threw it at the front window.  The drapes and what remains of a shear caught it, but not before it banged loudly and fell to the ashen floor.  It was quite an expressive moment.  A moment of anger.  A moment of I am here, and you, thankfully, are not.

We then made our way to the back of the house once again.  It’s there that we did some wrap up video of her talking about what happened.  A woman who when you sit and talk to her often has been told Jennifer Anniston resembles her, stood there in the sun dressed in a grey top, jeans and black shoes that in some ways resembled a ballet slipper.  As she had touched things and cried, she now had a few streaks of black upon her face from the ashes of the house, but her emotions, raw with the cathartic pain of her visit, were much more controlled than I’ve seen them before. 

We talked with her on camera for a few minutes and then as the camera stopped recording because it had run out of space, she also said, “Okay, I’m done.”

We had talked Friday about maybe having a bite to eat afterward.  That wasn’t going to happen now.  Too many embers that had blacked in her heart over the past 60 days once again were filled with the glow of orange-red and the white of of ash for her to talk of sitting down for a cup of coffee, much less anything to eat.  She said she was filling ill and wanted to return home to rest.

And so we said our farewells again for the time-being.  She wished me and the girls the best on our trip that begins Monday.  After our hug goodbye, I looked her in her saddened, tear-laced eyes and asked if there was anything I could do for her.  She smiled, wiped a tear and said, “You already are.”

Upon returning home, I processed the photos I’d taken and loaded the video of our visit.  It gets more and more riveting each time I see the photos and the video itself.  I’ve not begun editing it, but I did send Vero the pictures from this morning, and asked for permission to share the current events.

Upon our return, on June 29, Vero and I will head to the Waco area for her first speaking engagement where she’ll begin telling her story to audiences.  We all deal with the changes in our lives, the good events and the bad in different ways, but Vero said today something special.  That night, “God sent his angels” to protect her and now she begins the formal journey of “sharing her miracle.”

News Links

KRLD

Plano Star
And here is the Rowlett Police Department’s News Release:    (It’s a pdf)

CBS11TV

Dallas Morning News Report

Dallas Morning News Report

Photo Essay

I know, that was a long post.  They say photos can speak 1,000 words.  Here’s 1,001…..

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What can happen when a Protective Order isn’t enforced: Murder

Apr 27, 2010 by

I helped put together a news conference yesterday with Julie Lucio of Lucio, LaFleur and Associates and their client, Veronica Galaviz.  Veronica is lucky to be alive. (That's her to the left in the photo below; Julie is to the right.) 

Last Wednesday morning at 1:30 she awoke to find her estranged husband in her house with a shotgun telling her he was going to kill her.  
Veronica Galaviz (L) Julie Lucio (R)

There is a good accounting of the situation in today's Dallas Morning News.  It's a harrowing story as told by Veronica. 

She's taking up a mission/calling to help raise awareness to the issue of domestic violence and the thinness of enforcement of protective orders. 

As you will see, the Rowlett Police Department says that they didn't have enough evidence to pick up Veronica's husband when she provided them videos, call evidence, etc. to prove that he was in violation of the protective order.

But in talking with Julie Lucio, she says that once a judge has decided there needs to be a protective order in place, it's not the responsibility of the police to decide on the merits of the evidence presented by the protectee.  That's the role of the judge who signed the order.

Ms. Lucio says that what should have happened was that when Veronica reported the matter to police, they should have arrested her estranged husband.  That would have taken the matter into the court room and Veronica could have presented evidence to her claims, her husband could have rebutted, and the judge would have made a decision as to whether or not the estranged husband should have spent time time behind bars, paid a fine, or been warned further.

That's not what happened.  Veronica was never given the chance to present findings in court.  The police instead said there wasn't enough evidence.  But they have it now.

We did the news conference yesterday and the focus was not to bash the Rowlett Police Department.  That's not what's going on here.  Veronica's mission is to help raise awareness that maybe something needs to be done to toughen enforcement of protective orders. 

WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas, which devoted almost four minutes of lead airtime to this story last night, cited facts that show about 136 Texas women are murdered each year through domestic violence actions.  Don't you think that's about 136 too many?  Of course, in a society like ours, we're not going to stop them all, but cutting that number by even one would be a great victory.  

What are the laws in your state?  How has this issue affected you personally?

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