Domestic violence has become a hot button issue in Prince George’s County which currently leads the state in domestic violence incidents. Several grassroots organizations, including the People for Change Coalition which held a town hall meeting last week at Southern Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Temple Hills, are joining forces to change the way funding is distributed.
Many people noted that for the last two years the same organizations have received funding, including the Family Crisis Center, which was shut down temporarily because of abuse of residents and unsafe living conditions. The Family Crisis Center has received nearly $150,000 during the last two grant periods.
By comparison, Building Bridges, which received national acclaim for its faith-based domestic violence program, has been shut out of the county process, but received grant funding from another jurisdiction. “It’s preposterous,” Building Bridges President Marsha Woodland told the AFRO. “They are giving the money to people who are not about the victims, but rather programs that are more about the money. We have to do something to change our current system.”
Community activists and domestic violence advocates say county efforts aren’t working and a new model is needed. Some pointed to the recent death of county police officer Mujahid Ramzziddin, killed during his off day while intervening in a domestic violence incident.
“A lot of people are concerned with the way the money currently is being spent,” People for Change President Sandra Pruitt, told the AFRO. Pruitt has been an outspoken critic of the way county grant money is being distributed for domestic violence programs. “The same people who have close political connections keep getting the grant money while other organizations can’t seem to get anything. We lead the state in domestic violence homicides and we lead the state in protective orders.”
Pruitt said next steps included compiling data from surveys, holding elected officials accountable for the funding, and reaching out to service providers who may be interested in pursuing local grant opportunities. She was joined at the town hall by State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks; Sen. Victor Ramirez, a candidate for State’s Attorney; and Denise McCain, director of the Family Justice Center in Upper Marlboro.
State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, a candidate for Prince George’s County executive, said she would be considering how domestic violence funding is being distributed and promised to do more. Meanwhile, State. Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-26), also running for county executive, has already started to lobby in Annapolis for additional money for county domestic violence programs.
“Growing up in a domestic violence household, I know first-hand the impact that domestic violence has on families and more importantly children,” Muse told the AFRO. “As the state’s chair of the domestic violence taskforce, I know that Prince George’s County desperately needs resources for prevention programs to be successful. Our task force has asked the governor for $2 million for domestic violence programs.”
Darren Mitchell, interim director of the Maryland Network of Domestic Violence, during a press conference following Officer Razziddin’s death, suggested that a stronger effort should be made to get guns out of the hands of known abusers. “Abusers who have guns cause more domestic violence homicides than using all other weapons combined,” Mitchell said.
He said domestic violence survivors face many challenges when trying to get out of their situation. “We see that kind of isolation, intimidation, stalking behavior, can make it incredibly difficult for survivors who are seeking safety.”
Aisha Braveboy, a former delegate and leading candidate to replace Angela Alsobrooks, believes it’s going to take a team effort to improve domestic violence programs in the county. “I think it has to be a multi-agency approach,” Braveboy told the AFRO. “It doesn’t sit with one agency or one entity. We really need to look at where services are lacking. It’s housing and security. Families and parents who are victims often times don’t want to leave their situation because they don’t want their families broken up. A lot of times children are traumatized. There is a shortage of housing options for victims and not enough spaces in the shelters. We want victims to pursue justice so we have to provide options. We can work with our real estate partners and apartment building owners to create transitional housing options for their victims and their children.”
Mitchell said there needs to be work on disseminating information about abusers in order to help with further prevention of domestic violence. “A strong commitment on the part of all stakeholders to share information about particular abusers or situations which appear to be particularly lethal would be a great first step.”