Montgomery County announced a new Family Violence Awareness and Prevention Campaign, designed to support and inform County residents who are experiencing family violence during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Essential County businesses and restaurants are spreading the word that free help is always available. They’re doing so by sharing emergency contact information on informative cards, stickers and even on store receipts.
A Rockville resident and family violence survivor spoke passionately about the assistance she received from County agencies and partners as she struggled to leave an abusive relationship. The 41-year old woman says a concerned co-worker recognized signs of family violence and reached out to help. That support helped to empower her to report the abuse and connect with County resources. She stressed that the agencies and programs that helped her leave her relationship are still open during his health crisis and functioning. “Like many complex issues, addressing domestic violence takes the whole community,” she said. “That community is still here.”
The Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC) remains open throughout the pandemic and continues to provide services. The FJC can be reached by telephone at 240-773-0444 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Montgomery County Crisis Center is open 24/7 and can be reached at 240-777-4000.
The statewide stay-at-home order is critical to limiting the spread of COVID-19, but the increased isolation and stress, along with the inability to avoid an abuser, makes this a particularly difficult time for those experiencing family violence. As individuals are cut off from support systems outside the home, new stressors, such as financial instability, can make abusive situations more volatile. In addition, many people are not being seen by others who might report suspected family violence, such as teachers.
“We should all feel safe in our homes, but the reality is, not everyone does,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “The goal of the Family Violence Awareness and Prevention Campaign is to let County residents know that there is still help for victims, even during these difficult times. We have programs in place, some of them are available 24 hours a day. We are here to help.” Mr. Elrich and other County leaders stressed that no one will ever be asked about their immigration status if they seek help.
Materials for the campaign include stickers, cards, posters and yard signs that can be displayed and distributed at open retail stores and businesses, as well as graphics that can be used on social media. Stickers will be displayed on the plexiglass barriers at Montgomery County Liquor and Wine Stores. In addition, phone numbers where people can seek help will be printed on customer receipts. Founding Farmers in Potomac and Giuseppi’s Pizza in Rockville are adding the cards to their takeout orders. Printed materials are available in English and Spanish, and other languages upon request. Organizations and businesses interested in helping spread the word about available County resources should email Smita Varia, Domestic Violence Coordinating Council Program Manager at smita.varia@
“Don’t suffer in silence,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones. “If you need help, or if you have a friend, neighbor or loved one who you believe is suffering family violence in these trying times, please reach out. Our officers are ready to help, and so are our partners. We can overcome this together.”