Working to end domestic violence
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.