Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sheriff calls Domestic Violence Awareness Month Time to Celebrate and Fortify

Upper Marlboro, MD…Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin C. High said that the Office of the Sheriff will mark the month of October - Domestic Violence Awareness Month – by focusing on a variety of things that have illuminated the scourge of domestic violence.  High said because of a number of important changes to the way we respond to domestic violence crimes, to offenders and to victims of these crimes, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is the perfect time to remind individuals, families and organizations that each of us can be a force for ending domestic violence.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Sheriff High says is a prime example of legislative leadership that has been a game-changing resource for many communities in the way they respond to domestic violence. Just the other day, High said, the Governor’s Office on Crime Control Prevention sent out a summary of the Domestically Related Crimes Law – HB1146/SB647 that notes on an offender’s record whether a crime was domestic violence related. It’s a change the Sheriff says that will help identify such offenders, potentially increasing deputy and victim safety.   

Sheriff High said the Sheriff’s Office responsibilities in support of individuals and families, “…whether in our Domestic Violence Intervention Division (DVID) or in our Child Support Enforcement Unit, are a constant reminder that the future of any community depends on strong families.”

As an agency with significant domestic violence related responsibility, from serving protective orders countywide, to responding to emergency 9-1-1 domestic violence calls in Police District III and with the DVID Special Victims Assistants directing victims to the resources they need, High says DVID is keenly focused on the quality of its response to calls for service but also its ability to impact victim outcomes with a high quality response to victims in the aftermath of violence.

“A significant challenge is that domestic violence so often occurs within families. I have no doubt that nearly every individual family knows someone who was or is a victim of domestic violence.” 
 “We never lose sight of the fact that future generations grow strong, healthy and successful in a good and safe environment and that our county’s future depends on their success, “said High. “Among the partners in law enforcement and professionals serving victims, we have outstanding resources at work to stop domestic violence crime and to end victimization.”
In May of 2012, the work of the Office of the Sheriff DVID was cited in the first Prince George’s County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team 2012 Report and Recommendations. In particular, the Report’s top recommendation for law enforcement was that all county agencies adopt and utilize its Domestic Intervention –Supplemental Report, - a detailed report pioneered by the Office of the Sheriff for use when responding to domestic violence calls for service.

After that Report, High sought even further evaluation of the DVID process by commissioning an independent assessment. The additional evaluation was conducted by Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, a recognized expert in the area of domestic violence and a professor of Social Work at Howard University. Dr. Bent-Goodley’s report, evaluated the policies and procedures of the DVID, specifically and in comparison to other law enforcement agencies and industry best-practices, while the County Fatality Review Team assessed the county’s domestic violence response in the aggregate.

Dr. Bent-Goodley cited DVID’s collaboration across disciplines to meet the needs of victims and the importance of response and service access for victims countywide – referring to the Division’s Special Victim Assistants.  Bent-Goodley called DVID, “…a critical force to responding to domestic violence within Prince George’s County.”

Sheriff High said his agency was pleased to have the benefit of an independent assessment from an expert and the recognition that it was meeting and building on a best-practices standard in responding to the needs of domestic violence victims.

“We value greatly the partnerships that we are continuing to build to combat domestic violence crimes and to help victims become survivors,” said High. ”That is what it will take to be successful and to have a long-term impact.”

Urging every citizen to take action, Sheriff High said, “President Obama’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month proclamation included a very easy prescription that each of us can follow.  It urges us to ‘…promote healthy relationships, speak out when we see injustice in our communities, stand with survivors we know and change attitudes that perpetuate the cycle of abuse.’ I think that’s exactly right and if each of us commits to doing just those things we’ll end domestic violence.”

For more information contact the Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff’s Communications and Public Affairs Division at 301-780-8637.

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