County observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Officials ask others to aid local prevention efforts
The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Tuesday with a proclamation urging all citizens to actively support efforts to end domestic violence, and prevent harm to women, children, families and the community.
“Violence against innocents is wrong, period. Whether we are talking about domestic violence or other types of violence — violence against innocents is wrong,” Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said before the proclamation was issued.
On hand to receive the proclamation from Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) were members of the Crisis Intervention
Center, which began in 1984, and the Commission for Women, which was born out of the center’s advocacy. Collectively, both entities are working to end domestic violence in Calvert County by raising awareness through displays and events.
In fiscal 2018, the Crisis Intervention Center served 875 victims and handled 13,580 hotline calls, according to David Gale, director of the Crisis Intervention Center.
“At the Safe Harbor shelter, we provided 355 bed nights to 65 women and their minor children to keep them safe when they had unsafe environments,” Gale said, giving kudos to the commissioners for support.
“One of the things we do want to stress is violence against women is pervasive locally, nationally and internationally,” Commission for Women Chair Joan Winship said.
Winship said violence against women does not just happen in the home, but happens in the workplace, at all ages, and is not just physical. It can be psychological, emotional and sexual.
She said one in four women experiences some form of violence in their lifetime or knows of others who have. She said there was a surge in assault and abuse reports over the past week.
“The hotlines across the country were hot, if you will, in terms of people reporting things. Even officials at the White House, in Congress — women who came out who never expressed this. They mention these comments to their family and their friends for the first time,” Winship said.
While Winship did not mention names of officials or attribute the recent increase in hotline calls and reports of assault and abuse to any particular person or event, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway revealed during a recent CNN interview that she too was a victim of sexual assault.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network Hotline reported a record number of calls following the Sept. 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding sexual assault allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“Friday, September 28, was the busiest day in the 24-year history of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, with more than 3,000 people receiving help,” RAINN President Scott Berkowitz said in an Oct. 1 press release, a 338 percent increase over its average of 950 calls per day.
While Slaughenhoupt drew criticism over a recent tweet regarding the Kavanaugh allegations, from women who accused the commissioner of making light of sexual assault by comparing it to a childhood spanking game, Slaughenhoupt had said the tweet was meant as a commentary on the decades-long passage of time between when the alleged incident occurred and when Ford made her allegations.
Winship was one of several Commission for Women members who signed a letter to the editor that ran in the Sept. 26 edition of The Calvert Recorder following Slaughenhoupt’s remarks about the tweet. The letter announced the upcoming Domestic Violence Awareness Vigil and Recognition Ceremony, planned for 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Harriet Elizabeth Brown Community Center — and it also asked elected officials to show greater support for and not belittle alleged victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Slaughenhoupt’s Twitter account was deactivated Oct. 1, as part of the outgoing commissioner’s phase-out of social media as he wraps up his final term, he told The Calvert Recorder.
Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl (R) said the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement department to use the domestic violence assessment sheet and it helped the office to know what to expect and how to direct resources to individuals who called about domestic violence.
Gale confirmed the Lethality Assessment Program, used to identify victims of domestic violence at a high risk of injury or death, was piloted in Calvert County and the state has noticed a drop in domestic violence homicides since the program was adopted in all counties.
“We know it’s effective. We know that our deputies are using it and it’s keeping citizens safer and less likely to be victims of domestic violence homicide,” Gale said.
But even then, domestic violence deaths still happen from time to time in Calvert. Just this August, James Harley of Lusby was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his 34-year-old wife, Tanya, last year. Before Harley, 27-year-old Amanda Foster of Lusby was stabbed to death by her boyfriend in 2013, and in 2012, Cynthia Hayward, 32, and her 2-year-old daughter were killed by Hayward’s husband in a murder-suicide in their Owings home, leaving behind an orphaned 12-year-old boy who survived his father’s attack with deep cuts and burns.
Commissioner Mike Hart (R) recalled a domestic violence incident that turned deadly when he was a child and how he today encourages his son to play “very easy with the girls” during recess.
“I believe strongly that men have an important role to play as we teach young men and our male children,” Gale said.
Shirts decorated to represent individual domestic violence experiences hang in the Calvert County Circuit Courthouse during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The visual display, the Clothesline Project, is intended to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence.
Above left, David Gale, director of the Crisis Intervention Center, tells the Calvert County Board of Commissioners the center served 875 victims and handled 13,580 hotline calls in fiscal 2018, during the board’s Oct. 2 meeting. Gale was on hand for the proclamation declaring October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Above right, Commission for Women Chair Joan Winship, front right, addresses the commissioners about the types of violence women experience, during the proclamation. Behind her are Crisis Intervention Center staff Jennifer Edward and Rita Myers. Across from her are Commissioners Pat Nutter (R), left, and Mike Hart (R), Gale, Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R), Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl (R) and Commissioner Steve Weems (R).