Sobering statistics shared as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins

In 2010, there were 17,931 domestic violence crimes in Maryland, about 16,000 of them assaults

October 01, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Sherry Donovan, chairwoman of the board of directors of Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, speaks Monday at a kickoff for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month at University Plaza in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

In 2010, there were 17,931 domestic violence crimes in Maryland, about 16,000 of them assaults, state Sen. Christopher B. Shank said Monday during a ceremony marking October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Those incidents also included 18 homicides, Shank said, citing Maryland’s Uniform Crime Report for that year.

Shank noted before he spoke to a small gathering at University Plaza that Washington County has seen its share of domestic violence deaths in recent years, including the murder of Heather Harris by her former boyfriend, Randy McPeak, in 2011.

He told those attending the ceremony that there will be “another major effort next session” to change the law regarding peace orders and protective orders.

Currently, a person can be in an intimate relationship with someone and not qualify for a more stringent protective order because they do not meet criteria such as living with the abuser or having a child in common, Shank said before he spoke at the gathering.

Peace orders often deal with disputes between neighbors, not people in intimate relationships. When those turn abusive, the victims should get the same protections and the abusers the same legal scrutiny as afforded by protective orders, he said.

Many of the victims of domestic violence in the county contact Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, or CASA, according to Executive Director Vicki Sadehvandi.

“We had over 3,000 contacts with individuals asking for assistance last year,” Sadehvandi said.

There were another 24,000 calls to CASA’s 24-hour hot line at 301-739-8975, she said.

CASA helps more than the victims, Sadehvandi said. More than 600 abusers were court-ordered to take part in CASA programs last year, she said.

CASA runs six such groups, one of them for women, dealing with issues such as power and control, and the effects of domestic violence on children, Sadehvandi said.

“This is not just a private matter. It’s a very public matter,” CASA Board Chairwoman Sherry Donovan said of domestic violence. She urged people to get involved in combating domestic violence by contacting CASA to learn more or by volunteering.

During economic hard times, domestic violence can go up, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said. CASA, the State’s Attorney’s Office, law enforcement and social service agencies are among those who joined the Family Violence Council several years ago to figure out how to best provide services to victims and to deal with abusers, he said.

Mullendore said efforts must also continue to “break the cycle of violence” for the children who often witness, or are victims of, domestic violence.

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