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Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition Host Maryland Clergy for 2019 Interfaith Domestic Violence Conference

Domestic Violence Victims Often Seek Clergy First in Crisis

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition hosted the 2019 Interfaith Domestic Violence Conference yesterday, also wrapping up Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The conference – chaired by Judge Karen Friedman from the Circuit Court of Baltimore, along with Judge Catherine Chen from the District Court of Maryland – welcomed nearly 200 participants.

“We are inspired by the survivors of domestic violence who show tremendous courage, strength of will, and character to overcome hardship and rebuild their lives,” said Governor Larry Hogan, who declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month earlier this month. “Our administration is committed to securing justice for those affected by domestic violence as we work hard to make Maryland safer for all of our citizens.”

The conference united Maryland clergy, faith-based leaders, law enforcement officers, and domestic violence experts to collaborate in learning about the unique dynamics of domestic violence and the impact it has on Marylanders. Topics included domestic violence 101, trauma and brain science, navigating legal systems, survivor decision making, the role of clergy, and more.

“Clergy are crucial in the process of addressing domestic violence in Maryland and often serve as the front lines receiving initial reports inside our communities,” said Judge Karen Friedman for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City. “Equipping clergy with resources and strategies for what are often life-changing discussions with victims can make a life and death difference for victims and their families in their first steps toward safety.”

In 2017 alone, Maryland had 49 domestically related homicides, more than 30,000 domestic violence reported crimes, and granted more than 3,000 temporary and final protective orders. From January to September of 2019, over 18,000 domestic violence protective orders were requested and filed.

“You could be the difference between life and death,” said Steven McAdams, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. “Governor Hogan will continue to support the efforts of this coalition as a meaningful part of his administration’s fight against domestic violence.”

Anne Hoyer, Director of the Safe at Home Program from the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State, presented information on the Address Confidentiality Program – an initiative with the goal of assisting domestic violence victims from being tracked by their abuser. Director Hoyer also introduced the Workgroup to Study Child Custody Court Proceedings Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Allegations, established by Governor Hogan in June. The workgroup role is to make recommendations to Governor Hogan and the General Assembly that improve state court policies and practices to better protect children and other domestic violence victims.

In addition to establishing the Child Custody Workgroup, Governor Hogan has also expanded the Handle with Care initiative, which calls schools and law enforcement officers to work together to help children with adverse childhood experiences, including domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is a serious crime threatening Marylanders, which is never acceptable,” said Jennifer Gray, Interfaith Outreach Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives. “Appreciating the unique and important role clergy members serve in addressing the needs of victims, we believe, together with the faith community at large, we can transform families and strengthen our communities.”

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention has provided more than $33 million to Maryland organizations offering services for victims of domestic violence during the 2019 fiscal year and more than $121 million in total in funding available for the Victims of Crime Assistance Grant program since 2015. In April, he signed three bills to update the Maryland 911 emergency response system to help citizens who experience domestic violence access help quicker.

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