Police remind victims help is available.
It's an age-old problem with many victims, but it doesn't have to be that way. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and police agencies in Maryland are reminding victims they don't have to suffer in silence. "There are services available. There is help available if you're in a domestic violence situation," says Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police.
In Frederick County, victims can call Heartly House at 301-662-8800. If they're outside of Frederick, they can call the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence at 1-800-MD-HELP, and be directed to assistance in their communities. (www.mnadv.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Shipley says state troopers are trained in how to deal with domestic violence. They can provide information to victims on where services are available. They have also been instructed in the Lethality Screen developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. Troopers ask specific questions which help them determine whether the situation has the potential for being deadly.
"So far this year, our troopers have made 346 arrests across the state for incidents involving domestic violence," he says. "In each situation, they're talking to these victims, telling them what services are available, where they can go for help."
Two laws that recently went into affect in Maryland will help protect victims of domestic violence. One would make abuse victims who have to leave their jobs to escape domestic violence eligible for unemployment benefits. The second law would let judges note on a file that it's domestic-related. That helps legal services attorneys seek protective orders and peace orders for victims.
Many years ago, police and social service agencies never got involved in domestic violence because it was considered a family matter. Even the victims didn't reach out for help. Shipley hopes that attitude has long since been discarded. "There is help out there. They don't have to feel helpless. And they need to reach out, whether it's law enforcement or social action groups, and get the help that they need because it's there," he says.