Lt. Governor Brown Kicks Off Domestic Violence Awareness Month Announcing New Laws to Protect Victims
Marylanders Who Leave Work to Escape Domestic Violence Now Eligible for Unemployment Insurance
ROCKVILLE, Md. (October 1, 2012) – Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown was joined by state and local officials and representatives from law enforcement and victims advocacy groups at the Montgomery County Family Justice Center to mark the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Lt. Governor Brown announced two new laws that have gone into effect to protect and assist victims of domestic violence.
"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," said Lt. Governor Brown. "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 of today, Marylanders who are forced to leave their employment to escape the threat of domestic violence are now eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The law, championed by Lt. Governor Brown and sponsored by the Maryland Department of Labor during the 2012 Legislative Session, applies to a claimant who leaves a job because continued employment could jeopardize the safety of the claimant, the claimant’s spouse, minor child or parent.
“I have zero tolerance for domestic violence. As a social worker, I’ve seen first-hand how domestic violence hurts children and destroys families,” said U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. “These new laws meet a compelling human need, protecting victims, helping families heal and rebuilding lives. I will continue to fight to protect women and their families from continued violence and abuse.”
“Nearly three in four 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. These statistics permeate all socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, religious and gender groups in our nation,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and it is a time when we renew our commitment to putting an end to domestic violence and it is a time we work to ensure that victims and their families can begin anew in a safe and protected environment.”
“This new law will provide immediate assistance in the case of domestic violence, and will help to reduce violence in the workplace,” said DLLR Assistant Secretary Julie Squire. “The Department is very thankful for the support we received from Governor O’Malley and Lieutenant Governor Brown on this legislative initiative. Victims of domestic violence will now be able to support themselves and their families while looking for new employment in a safer location.”
“We are tremendously appreciative for the support of the numerous family and corporate foundations who have supported the work of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center,” said Tom De Gonia, President of the Montgomery County Family Justice Center Foundation. “More than anyone, corporations are well aware of the impact of domestic violence on the workforce. The recent bill supporting unemployment insurance coverage for victims of domestic violence is another important step in helping survivors of domestic violence and their families on the road to recovery,”
Additionally, starting today, at the time of a criminal sentencing, if the State proves that the defendant and the victim have a "domestically related relationship,” judges will be required to report that this was a domestic violence related crime. This will result in a notation in the defendant’s record. As a result, judges, law enforcement, court commissioners, state’s attorneys, probation officers and others will be able to review a defendant’s criminal record and quickly distinguish between a domestic violence-related crime and a crime perpetrated against a stranger or non-intimate partner. This will create a new level of accountability for domestic violence prosecution, sentencing, and enforcement and increase victims’ safety.
“Domestic violence robs people of their dignity and undermines the strength and stability of Maryland’s families and communities," said Tammy Brown, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “These new laws will improve our ability to identify, track and monitor these offenders while offering additional safety and security for victims.”
“Victims trying to flee domestic violence face many barriers and challenges in their efforts. The Family Justice Center was created to alleviate many of these challenges. This new law will enhance our ability to assist them in their efforts to attain self-sufficiency,” said Montgomery County Sherriff Darren Popkin.
Also at today’s event, Verizon Wireless announced a $10,000 donation to support the Montgomery County Annual Teen Dating Violence PSA contest and Choose Respect Conference. This marks the second year that Verizon Wireless has sponsored this program. Support comes from Verizon Wireless HopeLine Phone Recycling Program, which collects no longer used cell phones and converts the funds into support for domestic violence agencies.
"Unfortunately, violence doesn't stay home when its victims go to work," says Mike Maiorana, regional president, Verizon Wireless. "As a company committed to domestic violence prevention, we support programs and public policy that strengthen protections for victims, and continue to deliver the financial assistance needed by state and local domestic violence agencies through HopeLine, our nationwide wireless phone recycling program."
"Thank you to all the individuals, family and corporate foundations, and in particular Verizon Wireless, for the tremendous support from day one of the work of the FJC and the FJC Foundation,” said Resa Levy, Executive Director of the Family Justice Center Foundation.
Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence. Brown championed successful efforts in 2009 to improve domestic violence laws by giving judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown worked with members of the General Assembly, domestic violence advocates and stakeholders to pass legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order. Under the O’Malley-Brown Administration, domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 43% since 2007.