Maryland's Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown joined other elected and law enforcements officials and victims' advocates on Monday in Rockville to mark the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month by touting two new laws to protect victims of domestic abuse.
The first allows someone who leaves a job to escape the threat of domestic violence to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The law applies to someone who fears for the safety of themselves, their spouse, a minor child or a parent.
The second applies to how courts report domestic violence cases. It requires judges to report crimes as domestic violence-related if state prosecutors prove a defendant and victim have a "domestically-related relationship.”
The notation in the defendant’s record “will create a new level of accountability for domestic violence prosecution, sentencing, and enforcement and increase victims’ safety,” according to a news release from the lieutenant governor’s office.
The new laws took effect Monday.
"Ending domestic violence in Maryland is a responsibility that all of us share, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a chance to reach out and educate Marylanders about stopping the violence," Brown (D) said in the release. "These new laws will help break the cycle of violence and ensure that more of our friends, relatives, and neighbors have an opportunity to live healthy, happy lives."
“As a social worker, I’ve seen first-hand how domestic violence hurts children and destroys families,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore said in the release. “These new laws meet a compelling human need, protecting victims, helping families heal and rebuilding lives.”
October should be a time to “work to ensure that victims and their families can begin anew in a safe and protected environment,” U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Pikesville said in the news release.
“Nearly 3 in 4 Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence, and more than three women and one man are murdered by their partners in this country every day,” Cardin said. “These statistics permeate all socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, religious and gender groups in our nation.”
The new unemployment insurance law “will enhance our ability to assist [domestic violence victims] in their efforts to attain self-sufficiency,” Montgomery County Sherriff Darren M. Popkin (D) said in the news release.
Monday’s news conference was held at the Montgomery County Family Justice Center.
Providing unemployment insurance coverage “is another important step in helping survivors of domestic violence and their families on the road to recovery,” Tom De Gonia, president of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation, said in the release.
Verizon Wireless announced a $10,000 donation to the Montgomery County Annual Teen Dating Violence PSA contest and Choose Respect Conference on Monday as well.
Support comes from Verizon’s HopeLine Phone Recycling Program, which generates funds through used cell phones that are donated, refurbished and sold for reuse. Phones also are given to local domestic violence organizations, law enforcement or government agencies for use with domestic violence clients along with 3,000 minutes of wireless service.
"Unfortunately, violence doesn't stay home when its victims go to work," Mike Maiorana, regional president for Verizon Wireless said in the release. "As a company committed to domestic violence prevention, we support programs and public policy that strengthen protections for victims.”
The new laws are just two pieces of domestic violence legislation of which Brown has testified in favor while lieutenant governor.
In 2009, he was one of several high-profile advocates who testified for legislation to take gun ownership rights away from people when protective orders are taken out against them, The Gazette reported.
The General Assembly passed that legislation as well as 2010 legislation allowing a domestic abuse victim to use a copy of a final protective order to break a residential lease.
Brown's advocacy comes in part from personal tragedy. In August 2008, his cousin was murdered by her estranged boyfriend in her Montgomery Village home.