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Our View: Domestic Violence Awareness Month calls attention to serious issue affecting Carroll County

One in three women. One in four men. That’s how many people, nationally, are affected by domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Those numbers are horrifying, but perhaps some can rationalize that it mostly happens “somewhere else.” It happens here. A lot.

Consider this: More than 900 individuals contacted Family and Children’s Services for support in their domestic violence situation between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. That’s only those who sought help — the U.S. Department of Justice indicates only about a third of victims seek medical care and only about half report domestic violence to law enforcement — and only at that agency.

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“It is scary to reach out for help. The most dangerous time for a victim is when they are actually ready to leave that violent situation," said Kelley Rainey, director of case management services for FCS, after delivering that alarming number to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners on Thursday.

Rainey attended the weekly commissioners’ meeting because they were proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Carroll County. In making the proclamation, the commissioners urged citizens to recognize and assist all those that serve the rights and needs of victims of domestic violence, which they defined as “a pattern of abusive behavior used to control or establish power over men, women, children, the elderly, and disabled of all races, sexual orientation, religion and income.” The commissioners called upon the community to help survivors find the help they need and that those who are convicted of domestic violence be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

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“Public awareness and education about domestic violence are needed as well as uniform efforts on the part of government, health professionals, law enforcement, religious organizations, educators, and community associations to address domestic violence through prevention, intervention and treatment for victims and perpetrators,” reads the proclamation.

We couldn’t agree more and we appreciate the way Carroll County agencies work together on this important issue.

Just a few months ago, the commissioners approved grant awards to fund positions at the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, supporting two existing positions through the Violence Against Women’s Act. At the time, State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, who created the Special Victims Unit when he took office to handle domestic violence as well as sexual assault, child abuse and elder abuse cases, said VAWA efforts are important. Sheriff Jim DeWees explained that the grant, “supports deputies and administrative staff with entering protective orders into databases and ensures they are served in a timely manner to protect those that need relief from the domestic violence.”

Law enforcement is kept quite busy by domestic violence. In 2018, according to the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, 398 domestic violence cases were prosecuted. That was after handling 467 cases in 2017 and 352 in 2016, all up significantly from 233 in 2015.

The commissioners recognized the hard work of the advocates, service providers, family members and friends who provide services and comfort to victims of domestic violence and work to increase public understanding. Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, expressed his thanks for those working to take away the stigmas associated with domestic violence. Said Rothstein: "Bringing it out to the forefront is very important because it will welcome others to come forward and say, ‘I’ve got a problem. How do I solve it?’”

Among others, here are signs that you may be experiencing domestic violence, according to FCS: If an intimate partner is physically hurting you, possessive of you, displaying jealous behavior, reacting to you with an explosive temper, controlling your actions, decisions or finances, pressuring you into unwanted sexual activity, isolating you from family or friends or checking your cellphone without permission.

Rainey noted that FCS offers free case management support for families and mentioned the 24-hour domestic violence support hotline that is now also a text messaging hotline. “You can just send, ‘How do I get help?’ and they’re able to assist you,” Rainey said.

We encourage everyone to assist in any way they can, particularly during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we salute those who help the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice, and we urge anyone in an abusive relationship to call or text the hotline at 443-865-8031.

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