Domestic violence victims in Montgomery County will find it a little easier to get help from County agencies soon, according to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett who announced today an important advance for the Montgomery County Family Justice Center.
The Family Justice Center, among the first of its kind in the state, will place necessary services for victims in one location, reducing the number of places a victim has to go to receive services. Preventing domestic violence and providing accessible, effective assistance to victims of domestic violence is one of the County Executive’s priorities, and the Family Justice Center will play an important role in maintaining an ongoing, coordinated effort within county government.
Family Justice Centers have been identified as a “best practice” in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention services, resulting in reduced homicides; increased victim safety; increased autonomy and empowerment for victims; reduced fear and anxiety for victims and their children; and reduced recantation and minimization by victims when wrapped in services and support.
The Verizon Wireless Hopeline Program is providing a $60,000 grant to build a teleconferencing network at the Montgomery County Family Justice Center, making Montgomery County among the first jurisdictions in Maryland and in the U.S. to provide video-conferencing between the courts and domestic violence victims.
As a result, victims will be able to receive protective orders from the safety, security and comfort of the Center. This innovative use of technology will allow the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (MCFJC) to fulfill its mission of providing primary services at one location for victims of domestic violence.
The MCFJC, modeled after the original Family Justice Center in San Diego, will bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, health and human services, as well as other community partners under one roof to help domestic violence victims achieve safety, receive appropriate treatment, and to provide them with accurate and timely legal advice.
“Victims of domestic violence deserve a safe haven where they can receive the services and law enforcement help they need, and that is what the new Montgomery County Family Justice Center will do,” Mr. Leggett said.
According to the Surgeon General, domestic violence is the leading cause of injuries in women, ages 15-44. In Montgomery County during 2007:
• 7 children were killed by a parent with a history of domestic violence;
• 3 women were murdered by their intimate partners;
• There were over 8,000 911 family disturbance calls;
• More than 2,500 victims filed for protective orders against their intimate partners;
• More than 2,000 incidents of domestic violence were documented by police;
• 170 families sought shelter from domestic violence;
• More than 1,500 victims sought services at the County’s domestic violence program.
Verizon has been a longtime supporter of innovative programs designed to reduce domestic violence and assist domestic violence victims.
"In 2008 alone, the Verizon Wireless HopeLine program -- together with the Verizon Foundation -- donated more than $380,000 to support domestic violence prevention programs in the state of Maryland," said Mike Maiorana, regional president, Verizon Wireless, Washington, Baltimore, Virginia. "We can't think of a better way to start the new year than by making a sizable contribution to support the innovative work planned by the newly founded Family Justice Center of Montgomery County."
Resa Levy, President of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation, sees the Verizon gift as the first step in what the Foundation expects to be a surge of community support. “This project is an outstanding example of what the combined efforts of professionals working in Montgomery County, as well as corporations, foundations and individuals can accomplish when we all work together,” said Levy. “Verizon's wonderful lead gift significantly helps the Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation begin to fulfill its mission of providing resources for our Family Justice Center. It will strengthen the Center's programs and services, and help create broad and diverse community support for the Center.”
In addition to Levy, the Family Justice Foundation Founding Board includes Susan Mize, Donna K. Rismiller, Dorothy Fait, Catherine Leggett, and Matt Felix.
Also on hand for today’s announcement in Rockville was County Council President Phil Andrews, County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, Chief Deputy Sheriff Darren M. Popkin, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John J. McCarthy and key domestic violence experts. “As a public health professional, I am guided by ‘best practices’ that have been proven by research, results and experience,” said Councilmember Trachtenberg. “The Family Justice Center model places necessary services for victims of domestic violence in one location and reduces the number of places a victim has to go to receive services.”
“Domestic violence cases are one of the largest areas of growth in the Sheriff’s Office, and the Montgomery County Family Justice Center will assist us in meeting the challenge of domestic violence in our community and reducing the terrible toll it takes,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Raymond Kight.
“Citizens—particularly those who are disadvantaged or victimized—expect their basic human rights of safety, protection and law enforcement to be safeguarded,” said Council President Andrews. “The Family Justice Center will be a source of pride and proven accomplishment for Montgomery County.”
“The Family Justice Center will play a key role in the arrest, prosecution, and long-term accountability of domestic violence offenders,” said State’s Attorney John J. McCarthy. “The ‘one stop-shop’ approach has been shown in other jurisdictions to increase prosecution of offenders as it enhances the effect of good collaboration between government and law enforcement agencies.”
Also appearing at the announcement was Gael B. Strack, JD, CEO of the National Family Justice Center Alliance, and Cheryl Kravitz, co-chair of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's Family Violence Council and herself a victim of domestic violence.
The Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation formed to support the activities of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (MCFJC), can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information about sponsorship opportunities.
The Family Justice Center is scheduled to open in April 2009 at 600 Jefferson Street in downtown Rockville.
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