Blog: New MD Laws Pass As We Recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month

She lived with her husband and three children at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet Baltimore neighborhood.

Throughout their 10-year marriage, he managed to isolate her from her family, chip away at her self- esteem by calling her worthless and insist she asked permission when spending money. But it wasn’t until he shoved her against the wall did she realize that she had been in an abusive relationship all along.

“I thought you needed to be covered in bruises to be a victim of domestic violence,” said survivor, a local mom and client of CHANA. “I didn’t realize that the emotional wounds were just as damaging as the physical ones.”

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity for survivors, families and advocates to come together to help people recognize and respond to the warning signs and patterns of abusive behavior affecting the lives of too many of our neighbors, friends and family members.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used by one partner of an intimate relationship to maintain power and control over another partner. These behaviors may be exhibited in many forms, including threats and intimidation, isolation, economic deprivation, sexual, physical and emotional abuse,” explains Lauren Shaivitz, Esq., LGSW, Director of Programs CHANA.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. In one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men, according to data provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Locally, the latest domestic violence statistics shared by the Maryland State Police, report that there were 15,301 domestic violence-related crimes in 2015. These numbers only reflect the cases that were actually reported to the police and even then don’t take in to account those crimes that were reported by partners who do not live together.

CHANA, now in its 22nd year, was started by a small group of advocates, as the Jewish response to the community problem of domestic abuse. This past year alone, CHANA helped 110 survivors of domestic violence and trauma heal and rebuild their lives through crisis intervention, counseling and supportive services including legal advocacy.

“Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, religion, age, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation can be a victim,” Shaivitz shares. “While we wish that domestic violence did not exist in our own Jewish community, it is just as prevalent as in the rest of society at large. And so, we at CHANA are here to help support victims in their journeys to find safety and healing.”

CHANA supports legislation that strengthens protections and support for survivors and shifts the focus to victims’ rights. Effective October 1st, the Maryland General Assembly passed several laws that have significant impact on domestic violence victims/survivors and their families.

The first, prevents a perpetrator (spouse, intimate partner, family member, or guardian) from making health care decisions for someone they have abused and who may have caused the patient’s injuries.

Under the second new law to go in to effect, people who have received a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) in a criminal court case for second degree assault for a domestically-related crime cannot legally retain their firearms.  This is a significant measure given that statistics show that having a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.

A third law that was enacted clearly states that a victim of sexual assault does not have to physically resist the attacker to prove that a sexual crime was committed.

While we recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CHANA will continue to support victims, celebrate survivors, and connect with others fighting to end domestic abuse year-round.

For more information about CHANA’s services call 410.234.0030