Domestic violence and drugs to be discussed

Domestic violence and drugs to be discussed
Brenda Harkavy

Alcohol and drug abuse often go hand-in-hand with domestic violence incidents, but not in the way most people might think.

At Friday's Drug and Violence Awareness Expo, Assistant State's Attorney Brenda Harkavy plans to educate listeners on the underlying causes of abuse and how the use of drugs by abusers is used as an excuse for their behavior.


The expo, presented by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, will cover drugs, gangs, domestic violence and sexual assaults, including the effects on the greater community and businesses.

Harkavy's seminar on domestic violence, presented with Ellen Hare from the Women's Law Center, will be held at 3 p.m. at the Carroll County Agricultural Center.

Q: Can you describe your current position and what you do day to day?

A: I am the domestic violence prosecutor for the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office. On a daily basis I review and prepare domestic violence cases for court and ensure that I have all of the evidence, witnesses and information necessary to hold abusers accountable for their crimes. Aside from negotiating pleas, going to trial and preparing cases, my job also entails communicating with and supporting the victims of domestic violence. Before a case even makes its way onto a criminal docket, I help victims find emergency shelter, teach them safety planning and refer them to counseling programs. I also attend trainings to stay up to date on novel ways to argue cases, meet with local domestic violence advocates in order to streamline victims' interactions with the criminal justice system and service providers, and gather information on ways to improve victim cooperation and trust in the criminal justice system. I also conduct community outreach and educational trainings.

Q: How is domestic violence connected to drug and alcohol abuse?

A: It is a common misconception that drug and alcohol abuse cause domestic violence. At the root of domestic violence is the abuser's need for power and control. Abusers use physical, psychological, economic and sexual abuse as a means of maintaining dominance over their victims. Abusers use substance abuse as an excuse for their violent acts, claiming the alcohol or drugs "made them do it," taking away the abuser's sense of responsibility for their actions. This reliance on alcohol and drugs as the "cause" of abuse gives victims a false sense of hope leading them to believe that their loved one is not really "an abuser" and if they can get them to stop using or drinking the abuse will stop. This is not to say, however, that there is no connection between domestic violence and substance abuse, as sometimes abuse is more severe and more frequent when an abuser is under the influence. Also, some victims of domestic violence use alcohol and drugs in order to numb their fear and cope with the abuse.

Q: What are you planning to speak about at the upcoming expo?

A: At the expo I plan to explain what domestic violence is and the forms of domestic violence. I will speak about the people domestic violence affects and the staggering impact it has on children and the community. I hope to also provide participants with an understanding of the ways they can combat domestic violence, the resources available in Carroll County and changing the focus from victim blaming to abuser accountability. I also will focus on the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office's strong commitment to prosecuting domestic violence and the procedures we have in place to effectuate that goal.

Q: How is this relevant to what is happening in Carroll County right now?

A: My presentation on domestic violence is not only relevant to what is happening in Carroll County right now, but what will happen in Carroll County tomorrow, next year and in the future. Domestic violence is epidemic and the people of Carroll County are affected by it on a daily basis. Law enforcement respond to domestic violence calls at a staggering rate, area hospitals are treating victims for injuries suffered at the hands of their abusers, and children are witnessing violence in their homes. Carroll County is also a place of great hope with involved and concerned citizens so now is a great time to bring the community together to increase awareness of and education about domestic violence.

Q: What are you hoping listeners will get out of your presentation?

A: I hope listeners will come to recognize the pervasiveness of domestic violence and the vital role they play in combating domestic violence in our community. Current statistics show that one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, but despite these numbers domestic violence is rarely talked about. I hope my presentation will open the dialogue about domestic violence among families, educators, community leaders and law enforcement. I hope my presentation will make it easier for people to say "no" to domestic violence and recognize some of the silent signs of abuse and danger; lives are often saved when neighbors call 911 or friends and family reach out to someone in need.



If You Go

What: Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 1

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center, Shipley's Arena

Cost: Free

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