It outlines what has been done to address domestic violence, and what still needs to be done.
Frederick, Md (KM) The 2021–2022 annual report from the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council was presented to the Frederick County Council this week. “In Frederick County alone in 2022, the State’s Attorney’s Office filed 136 felony domestic violence cases, over 500 misdemeanor cases of domestic violence,” :said Brett Engler, who chairs the Council. “As you can imagine, domestic violence is one of the most under reported crimes in America.”
Engler, who also prosecutes domestic violence cases for the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, says often victims and survivors say this is not the first, second or third time they’ve had violence perpetrated against them. But it may have been the first time they’ve told police, contacted Heartly House or told someone what was happening to them.
One of the accomplishments of the Council’s Victim Services Committee has been a partnership with law enforcement and auto body shops to identify a GPS tracking system in the victims’ vehicles which was placed by their abusers without their consent. “What we see sometimes is the victims will feel like they’re being tracked. but they don’t know how to pinpoint it.; They think that something might be attached to their car. But they may not know an auto body shop, may be afraid to go to one,”: says Engler.
She says with the partnership with law enforcement and local auto body shops, the victim can locate the tracking device, and remove it. “These auto body shops are committed to providing this service discreetly under a name that’s untraceable by their abusers, and free of charge for victims who are linked through law enforcement,” says Engler
The Council, through its Community Engagement Committee, is looking at establishing a program or event for middle and high school students to instruct them about the early warning signs of abusive dating behavior, including control, isolation and manipulation and how to help a friend who is experiencing a abuse. “Montgomery County, which has informed a lot of what we have done, has a great event called ‘Choose Respect’ which is for middle school and high schoolers. And they do it every year. They have a lot of funding for it,”: says Engler. “It’s a wonderful event aimed at curbing teen dating violence, and introducing the concepts of control, abusive behaviors in relationships so teens can spot it.”
One effort is reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community. Engler says the Offender Policy Committee has been spearheading an effort to set up a Spanish Language Abuse Intervention Program. “I’ve done domestic violence prosecution for over a decade and we’ve never had a certified program in the county that can serve the needs of Spanish speakers. And we’ve achieved funding toward that goal,”; she says.
That committee is also looking at a program for those who are in jail for domestic violence cases. “These offenders would greatly benefit from this program,” the DVCC report says.
The Council’s Justice Response Committee has set up a program of training for county dispatchers and emergency medical services personnel to recognize non-fatal strangulations.
Engler says the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council will continue to bring attention to domestic violence in 2024. “Continuing to identify service gaps,” she says. “Leveraging partnerships in collaboration, and resourcing to support victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The Legislative and Policy Planning Committee of the Council will continue to monitor bills dealing with domestic violence when they come up during the General Assembly Session.
By Kevin McManus