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She was there to receive a plaque from County Court-at-Law Judge Rodolfo “Rudy” Gonzalez. The plaque marked a year of weekly check-ins with the court and her probation officer in addition to mandatory group and individual therapy sessions. It also guaranteed that her criminal case would be dismissed and she would not be convicted. More importantly, it represented a year of personal growth, a new sense of self-confidence, newfound patience and maturity, Mary said. The Domestic Violence Court is the first of its kind in South Texas, said Assistant District Attorney Carlos Benavides, the specialty prosecutor assigned to the court. It began in 2017 after Gonzalez and the Hidalgo County Community Supervision and Corrections Department applied for and received a $185,000 grant through the Texas Governor’s Office to develop a program designed to rehabilitate first-time domestic violence offenders. Participation in the program is by application only and is restricted to individuals facing their first charge of assault causing bodily injury involving a family member, a Class A misdemeanor. More specifically, said Benavides, the charge must stem from an offense involving intimate partners, such as a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend. While some may view domestic violence as an issue that only impacts certain social classes or one exclusive to heterosexual relationships, Benavides stressed that “it’s across all classes and all sexualities; (domestic violence) is not bound to a particular group.” “We wanted to make sure this would be strictly for helping and rehabilitating domestic violence offenders,” Benavides said. “We didn’t want this to be a far reaching court (that was) trying to solve multiple issues.” Therapy is a critical component of that rehabilitation and program participants receive treatment for substance abuse, anger management and underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants of the program receive group therapy for six months and then individual treatment for another six months.
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