Del. Lewis leads Father’s Day pledge to combat domestic violence

A closeup of the signature of some members of the House of Delegates on a poster to combat domestic violence. Photo by William J. Ford.
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As Father’s Day approaches Sunday, some elected officials in Maryland are spreading a pledge to combat domestic violence.

About 40 Maryland state delegates signed their names to a Prince George’s County poster with a pledge “to never engage in any type of abuse — physical, emotional, sexual, financial or digital.”

Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s) led the effort a few days before this year’s 90-day legislation session ended in April. Some of the signatures include Dels. Nick Allen (D-Baltimore County), Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil), Julian Ivey (D-Prince George’s) and Stuart Schmidt (R-Anne Arundel).

“We’re going to model what it’s like to have healthy, honest relationships, and then go back to our districts, and figure out how we can build our programs that engage with followers of the community in a meaningful way,” Lewis said Tuesday during a domestic violence program in Upper Marlboro.

The county’s Department of Family Services led the fourth annual Father’s Day Pledge initiative, collecting 1,500 signatures on about 40 placards that partially surrounded a room at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 112 during the Tuesday event.

Those in attendance acknowledged that signatures aren’t going to solve the problem of domestic violence, especially fighting a crime when most of the time both partners know each other.

A report by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence and Maryland Domestic Violence Fatality Review State Implementation Team notes 58 domestic violence deaths happened in 2021, the most since 2007.

Out of those 58, about 37 were intimate partner victims and about 92% of victims were women.

According to the report, the top five jurisdictions where domestic violence deaths took place in 2021 were: Baltimore City (13), Baltimore County (10), Prince George’s (9), Anne Arundel (7) and Howard (6) counties.

Some of the more than 200 recommendations in the report to reduce domestic violence include establishing a time limit for “perpetrators” to gather belongings from a shared home with a spouse or partner; creating family justice centers in all of the state’s 24 jurisdictions; and providing domestic violence training to anyone that works with victims.

“Domestic violence is not just in one area. It’s not just in certain neighborhoods. It’s not just in certain municipalities, but it’s something that we have to address collectively,” said Elana Belon-Butler, director of the Prince George’s Department of Family Services. “We have to…start by having the conversation [and] being willing to embrace people where they are.”

One recommendation Belon-Butler offered is for state agencies such as the department of Health or Human Resources to help spread the word about various programs they and counties provide.

“They could just partner with us to help us get the message out to some of the families that they’re working with,” she said. “That and events like this to have conversations to show we have resources available…and make people aware of what domestic violence is.”

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