For Shannon Trest and her staff at the Women’s Center of East Texas, every month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she said.

But October brings a special awareness to the cause, and on Friday, county employees, the Women’s Center and community members gathered at the steps of the Gregg County Courthouse to raise awareness to domestic violence.

Trest stood with District Attorney Tom Watson and spoke about domestic violence in the state before everyone stood together in purple for a photo.

The Texas Council on Family Violence produces an annual domestic violence report called Honoring Texas Victims, Trest said. The project offers a map of the state, and each county that has not had a fatality is shown in purple.

“The goal for the state of Texas — and obviously Gregg County — is to go purple,” she said. “We did have fatalities last year — and we continue to have these fatalities. That’s what we’re working on, is to make sure that with the services provided, with prevention efforts that we’re doing, with intervention efforts and with prosecution, we strive to go purple.”

Watson said when he took office, he made it a priority to be aggressive against domestic violence.

“If these situations remain left unchecked, we have it escalate to homicides,” he said. “And we’ve actually had a number of domestic-related homicides in Gregg County this year. We’re partnering with the Women’s Center, so we’re doing whatever we can to get the word out there that we’re not going to tolerate it in Gregg County.”

According to the Honoring Texas Victims report, 174 women were killed by a male intimate partner in Texas in 2018. Also, 32 men were killed by their female partners, and one woman and four men were killed by same-sex partners, according to the report.

In all, 211 Texans were killed by intimate partners in 2018, the report says.

Friday’s gathering helped raise awareness, Watson said.

“We just think it’s very important to know the cause, to get out to the people, the citizens of Gregg County and make sure they know there are alternatives to living in that cycle of violence,” Watson said. “That’s the main point, is educating the public, and at the same time letting those offenders be aware that if they continue to offend, they’re going to have to face the consequences. Because we’re not dismissing these cases.”

Trest said the 174 women killed is an increase from 136 in 2017.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “We keep thinking we might be making strides and to have those numbers go up like that, it’s just heartbreaking.”

Anyone in need of assistance can call the Women’s Center’s 24-hour hotline at (800) 441-5555.