PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. – Domestic Violence is a ‘pandemic within a pandemic.’ Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and other experts say COVID-19 has made a serious problem even worse in Maryland and all over the country. 

Speaking at the Not One domestic violence awareness event on Wednesday evening, Braveboy shared alarming statistics. “Not everyone was safer at home during safer at home order.  We saw a 10% increase in domestic violence.  An increase in strangulation. An extra five cases per week.”

Braveboy said strangulation is the most lethal form of domestic violence which is why she campaigned for legislation to make it a first-degree felony assault in Maryland.
Braveboy along with domestic violence experts and survivors spoke at the socially-distant event which was streamed live on Zoom and Facebook.

Melissa Hoppmeyer, chief of the Special Victims and Family Violence Unit, said there has also been an increase in the use of weapons. In response, the county developed a high-risk protocol to get assistance of victims promptly. “We review every single case. If there’s a strangulation or a weapon, our victim advocates reach out within 24 hours.”

Family Justice Center Offers Help

Assistant State’s Attorney Kathryn Marsh said the pandemic cut many people off from traditional avenues of assistance. “As the community has suffered from COVID-19, victims have suffered from domestic violence.  With churches and temples virtual, people could not confide in spiritual leaders. With schools closed, teachers couldn’t offer help.  People heard courts were closed. They didn’t understand that our Family Justice Center was open and that our police and EMTs could still respond.”

The Prince George’s County Family Justice Center offers a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence. Twenty-one government and non-profits organizations have partnered with the center to help victims navigate the courts, receive counseling, and find housing and other assistance. 

Break The Silence

All speakers agreed that talking about the issue is the first step. Several survivors of domestic violence spoke at the event. All said they had been ashamed to ask for help at first.

Marsh said it’s important for people to realize they are not alone. “Every year 12 million Americans are affected. Every minute 12 people are victims. One in four women. One in seven men. One in 10 in high school have experienced dating violence.” Marsh said it’s wrong to think of domestic violence as a private family matter. “It costs about 8 million paid leave days a year. It costs employers $720 million a year. It runs into the billions when you take into account health care costs.”

Speakers stressed the need for all citizens to educate themselves about the issue and to advocate on behalf of victims.

Braveboy said, ““We should not leave one person behind in the fight against domestic violence.”