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Documentary highlights efforts to reduce domestic violence in rural North Texas 30

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To mark it, KERA will show Beyond Conviction, which follows Staley Heatly, a district attorney, as he attempts to reduce domestic violence recidivism and the problems of family violence in the 46th Judicial District, northwest of Wichita Falls.

The film was shot, edited and directed by Thorne Anderson, an associate professor in the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Independent Television Service (ITVS) commissioned the film as part of the Independent Lens series.

Beyond Conviction airs on KERA at 9:30 p.m., October 19, 2021

Domestic violence has worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control estimates nearly one in four women in the United States will experience “severe physical violence” by a domestic partner. Researchers for the Journal of Women’s Health have found that rural women “experience higher rates of [intimate partner violence] and greater frequency and severity of physical abuse” than women who live in urban areas.

Beyond Conviction features Heatley’s 2009 successful prosecution of Tommy Castro in Vernon, Texas. Castro beat his girlfriend’s five-year-old daughter to death. As a result of this case, Heatly founded the Texoma Alliance to Stop Abuse (TASA) to aid victims and rehabilitate batterers. The State Bar of Texas and the Texas District and County Attorneys Association named Heatly Prosecutor of the Year in 2017.

Today, TASA runs the Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program, a weekly batterer counseling program. Heatly also created the Domestic Violence High Risk Intervention Team, which puts law enforcement in touch with service groups that provide specialized assistance when reaching out to victims and potential victims.

Made up of a combination of interviews and observation, the documentary also features Anthony Loya, a convicted batterer intent on reform.