Work­ing to end do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The Mary­land Net­work Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence held its 29th an­nual Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Me­mo­rial Ser­vice last week in Annapolis. The event re­called the women, men and chil­dren who died as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence dur­ing the past year, cel­e­brated the sur­vivors and fo­cused at­ten­tion on chang­ing laws to re­duce do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, im­prove vic­tim safety and pro­vide greater abuser ac­count­abil­ity.

That same day, the Mary­land Net­work Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence re­leased 2015-2016 do­mes­tic vi­o­lence fa­tal­ity sta­tis­tics, in­clud­ing vic­tims of in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence, other in­di­vid­u­als who died in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence-re­lated sit­u­a­tions and abusers who com­mit­ted sui­cide or were killed.

Fifty-five in­di­vid­u­als died in Mary­land, in­clud­ing 42 vic­tims, be­tween July 2015 and June 2016, as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. Fifty-eight per­cent or 32 of the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence fa­tal­i­ties in­volved the use of a gun. There were at least 47 chil­dren left be­hind.

Forty-two in­di­vid­u­als who died were vic­tims. These vic­tims in­cluded 34 peo­ple who were killed by in­ti­mate part­ners: 26 women, seven men and one teen girl (age 17); two of these homi­cides oc­curred in a same-sex re­la­tion­ship.

Eight other peo­ple died in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing two chil­dren, one who was killed by her fa­ther (age 2) and one who was killed by his mother’s boyfriend (age 14).

The an­nual me­mo­rial ser­vice serves to heighten aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and re­minds the com­mu­nity of the ter­ri­ble toll that it takes each year on fam­i­lies in Mary­land. But the ser­vice also fo­cuses on pos­i­tive ac­tions that can pre­vent fu­ture tragedies.

Of the 13 do­mes­tic vi­o­lence abusers who lost their lives, 10 men com- mit­ted mur­der-sui­cide or at­tempted mur­der-sui­cide; two men com­mit­ted mur­der-sui­cide as well as ar­son; and one man was killed by his vic­tim (the abuser’s ex-boyfriend) in self-de­fense.

Here in Charles County, we were for­tu­nate to regis­ter zero do­mes­tic vi­o­lence re­lated deaths from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016, the lat­est avail­able data pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

On the leg­isla­tive front, Sen­ate Bill 219, cur­rently in com­mit­tee, would en­able a vic­tim or the vic­tim’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to re­ceive prompt no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the re­lease of the crim­i­nal de­fen­dant.

SB 219 builds on ex­ist­ing crim­i­nal pro­ce­dures to im­prove the safety of vic­tims of crime.

Cur­rent law al­lows vic­tims or their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­quest pro­tec­tion from a dis­trict court com­mis­sioner or court. The bill would al­low the vic­tim of crime to com­plete a con­fi­den­tial sup­ple­men­tal form when an ap­pli­ca­tion of charges is filed and to regis­ter with the state’s vic­tim in­for­ma­tion and no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem.

The vic­tim then can be no­ti­fied via email or tele­phone about the sta­tus of the case, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about the de­fen­dant’s re­lease.

This is im­por­tant be­cause it is not un­usual for the de­fen­dant in a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence case, who has re­cently been re­leased from jail, to seek re­venge on an in­ti­mate part­ner.

With prompt no­ti­fi­ca­tion, the vic­tim will be able to take ap­pro­pri­ate pre­cau­tions to avoid fur­ther in­jury or, in ex­treme cases, death.

This no­tice will not only make the vic­tim safer, but will also serve to re­duce the cost to the com­mu­nity in ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with po­lice, health care and lost wages.

While progress is be­ing made, we must con­tinue to work to make do­mes­tic vi­o­lence a thing of the past.

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