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by Judith Hruz
Montgomery County leaders on Oct. 16 gathered in Rockville to send a clear message: The county does not tolerate domestic violence and has people and services in place to help men and women suffering from abuse.
Standing in the lobby of the Executive Office Building next to a sign that read, “Are you afraid of your partner? Free help is available,” County Executive Marc Elrich (D), Councilman Sidney Katz (D-Dist. 3) and others urged victims to reach out to any of the free services offered by the county, including the Family Justice Center, the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Abused Persons Program and others.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the county embarked on a campaign to get information on those services to the community.
The campaign is designed to “speak up loud and clear to let victims, and those who know others who are suffering, that there is place to go to get the help they need,” Katz said.
The county reports that 911 emergency services receives more than 5,000 calls relating to domestic violence each year
Elrich said the county is not only reacting to incidents of domestic violence, but also being proactive in the services it offers.
“It is important that we have a full range of services, from prevention to healing,” he said.
Katz, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said that nearly three out of every four people “knows someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.”
Katz’s council office and the Montgomery County Commission for Women are financially supporting the county’s campaign that urges victims to use the free services.
Ads will appear on Ride On buses and information on services and ways to reach those services are being handed out all over the county – and in the top 136 languages spoken in the county.
Katz said domestic violence “affects women and men, and takes many different forms. It affects every race, religion, culture and status.”
“We have come a long way, especially In Montgomery County, in recognizing the many forms of domestic violence, providing services to victims, and in holding the offenders accountable,” he said.
The State’s Attorney’s Office has a specialized domestic violence docket to address such crimes.
“We’re in the job of removing barriers to getting help for domestic violence,” State’s Attorney John McCarthy said.
However, McCarthy said the state does not have a felony statute for the crime of strangulation, and victims who are strangled are more likely to be victims of homicide.
He also believes in the importance of educating youths, who are often physically abused by their dates.
“The long-term way of making this a safer community, where domestic violence is not prevalent in our community, is teaching young people at a very critical stage of their lives, about what the proper boundaries are,” McCarthy said.
Marcus Jones, acting chief of the Montgomery County Police Department, said domestic violence prevention and assistance is “very dear to my heart.”
A member of the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Jones echoed others in urging county residents to take advantage of the services, which give victims an opportunity to address issues and “get into a safe environment.”
Sheriff Darren Popkin said the county is committed to helping victims of domestic violence.
“Every day is Domestic Violence Awareness Day,” he said.
To reach the Family Justice Center, call 240-773-0444. To reach the Abused Persons Program, call 240-777-4673.
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