Aisha Braveboy, a former Maryland state delegate and current candidate for Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, launched an anti-domestic violence campaign Oct. 18 that featured live testimonies from the county’s domestic violence survivors, workers, advocates, and legislators.
“I decided to initiate the “Not One” campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence to empower victims to leave dangerous situations. Domestic violence takes many forms, some subtle and unsubtle, and the goal is to educate people that no form of domestic violence is ever acceptable. I wanted to bring people together to have a community discussion about this important issue,” Braveboy told the crowd during the event.
Prince George’s County has, for years, had one of the top rates of homicides from domestic violence in Maryland.
“Talking about domestic violence is important in Prince George’s County because the county typically experiences about 20-25 domestic violence related homicides each year,” Braveboy told the AFRO.
She also thinks talking about the issue is important in the Black community.
An “open discussion about domestic violence in the Black community is important because discussing the issue has been taboo in the past. The first step of the healing process is to acknowledge that you have a problem,” Braveboy said.
During the campaign, several women shared their stories of physical, mental, financial and spiritual abuse.
One woman had been shot. Another told a story of dealing with abuse for 17 years until her daughters woke up one morning during a fight so concerned that the oldest pulled a knife on their father and called the police.
Debbie Johnson, now with the FBI, said she was chased around her parent’s house after leaving her first husband.
“Full slip on and no shoes, and … glass on my feet and hit that door to get out of my house and I was literally running in the street, up and down the street, banging on the neighbors doors to please let me in, he’s coming to get me. I filed several restraining orders to keep him away from me…. At the time I lived in the District of Columbia, I’m not sure what the laws were…in that particular incident they were able to come and pick him up,” Johnson said.
Because of its history of domestic violence, Prince George’s County has implemented tools in order to assist those looking for assistance when attempting to leave such situations.
“While we have been able to deal with quality of life issues and other crime, we’ve seen an uptick in domestic violence, in Prince George’s County, and so we really want to be able to put a tool in place to deal with the uptick that we’ve seen in domestic crime in our county,” said County Council Member Karen Toles (D-District 7). There have been 26 domestic homicides so far in the county in 2017, which is up from 20 in 2016.
Toles has Public Hearing CB- 87 Sick and Safe Leave scheduled to occur on Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. The purpose of the hearing is to require certain employers in the county to provide earned sick and safe leave to certain employees working in the county due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
“It’s the ability for individuals to earn sick and safe leave,” Toles told the AFRO. “If you’re not earning enough leave or do not earn leave at all, and you have a domestic violence incident occur in your life, and you have to go to the courthouse, if you have to seek assistance… you may not be able to do that, if you don’t earn leave. If you don’t earn leave means that you are not getting paid. And often times, if they don’t go get help, the situation escalates and gets far worse, and ultimately can result in death,” said Toles.
There were 13,046 domestic violence calls and 855 arrests. In 2013, there were 10,277 domestic violence calls and 862 arrests, according to a 2016 report from the Prince George’s County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. The report showed that there were 20 domestic violence related homicides in 2014, 11 more than the year before.
Maryland Del. Angela Angel is currently working in Annapolis on issues to help domestic violence victims and survivors. Angel is a domestic violence survivor.
“I had fled an abusive home, but I couldn’t say that to anyone because that was too hard for me to admit. I was pregnant with my fifth child and I was an attorney, and I had dealt and fought for women who were in these situations. So it looks like me. It looks like the woman that’s next to you. It looks like your neighbor, it looks like your pastor. It looks like your church member, so never forget that,” Angel said.
Angel reminded audiences that finances are often a major issue when it comes to abuse and leaving a domestically unsafe relationship.
“When my husband left me he took everything. I went immediately from a 75,000 dollar household, to a 40,000 dollar household, with a family of four children and one on the way, in Prince George’s County. So that’s what women are facing. When you say women need to get out, they don’t need, like a week on your couch, they need to figure out how they’re going to live for the next year, three years,” said Angel.
She said she is working on the Domestic Violence – Education and Definition of Abuse bill that will require the State Board of Education to encourage the education of age-appropriate lessons on domestic violence; alter the definition of “abuse” for purposes of specified provisions of law relating to domestic violence to include harassment and malicious destruction of property; and define harassment and malicious destruction of property. The bill received an unfavorable rating by the Judiciary in March.
October is recognized as domestic violence month. During the month the county has also instituted partnership with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to combat domestic violence and began the national Purple Light Nights campaign in the county to raise awareness about domestic violence. The Capital Wheel in Oxon Hill is lit in purple. To participate in the campaign, residents would have use purple porch lights for the rest of October.