During the month of October, survivors, family members, supporters and community advocates recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness Month to support survivors and honor the lives lost to domestic violence. Last year in Maryland, 29 people were killed by their abuser, and nationally, one in four women and one in seven men ages 18 and older were impacted by domestic violence, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
In the Office of the State’s Attorney for Anne Arundel County, we take violence against any individual very seriously and have a dedicated team of victim/witness advocates who are trained to support crime victims by providing emotional support, advising victims of their rights, accompanying them to the court appearances, and providing timely information and assistance for their case. Through this client-centered approach, our advocates take a central role in helping survivors navigate their case from start to finish, and even in the months and years that follow. Our advocates focus on serving the varying needs of each survivor during one of the most challenging times of their lives.
“During these unprecedented times, as domestic violence cases have increased in our community, we do not want any survivor to hide behind a mask or feel isolated,” said Joan Stammnitz, who serves as the director of victim/witness services in our office. “Our advocates help guide victims through the criminal justice system, and they will listen and offer support and resources and referrals every step of the way.”
In addition, it’s incredibly important that advocates maintain a healthy working relationship with these survivors, as oftentimes, they may feel isolated or even ashamed and unable to discuss their trauma with friends and family members, says Tiffany Bright, a victim/ witness advocate in our office.
“Advocates serve not only as a source of information regarding the criminal justice system, by providing victims with knowledge about the court process, but they also act as emotional support when victims must face their abusers in the courtroom,” Bright adds. “It is imperative that we continue to honor victims of domestic violence, encouraging them to continue to report allegations of abuse and allow their voices to be heard. We must never cease in letting victims know that they are not alone.”
In our office, we have English- and Spanish-speaking advocates at our two District Court locations and the Circuit Court who are there to assist all victims of crimes, and in Anne Arundel County, there’s a 24-hour domestic hotline at 410-222-6800 to assist individuals at any time. If survivors speak another language, we use a Language Line to communicate with them, and the certified interpreters are provided for any court proceedings.
Domestic violence is a horrendous crime and impacts the lives of so many people. If you or someone you know is affected, please contact a reliable organization or reach out to a trusted friend or family member.
You don’t have to suffer in silence. We’re here to help and serve your needs.