Home violence discussed

October 29, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

In a large atrium in an Annapolis hotel, more than 80 people -- about 75 women and 6 men -- gathered yesterday to continue their fight against domestic violence.

The group spoke about progress made, laws passed and increased awareness, but the scarcity of men in the audience told the real story -- domestic violence continues to be a crime committed mostly against women, and women are fighting back.

"Sure, I'm disappointed there aren't more men here," said C. Sue Hecht, president of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence after the organization's annual meeting.

"But you have to work on them one at a time. You just have to get one man, and it can make a difference."

Two such men, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and businessman Steven Kanstoroom, were honored at yesterday's meeting -- the governor for his work on key pieces of legislation and Mr. Kanstoroom for a grant recently awarded to the network by his company.

The network also honored U.S. Congresswoman Constance Morella, R-Montgomery, for sponsoring several federal bills, including one signed into law Tuesday that will provide legal assistance for battered women in criminal cases.

Addressing the crowd, Governor Schaefer admitted he didn't understand the issue of domestic abuse until Ms. Morella asked him to visit a Jessup prison more than a year ago. There, he heard the stories of eight women who had killed spouses or boyfriends after years of abuse.

"For the first couple of women, I didn't know if they were play-acting or what," the governor said. "But by the third, it was clear. I saw they were really suffering physical or mental abuse."

Ms. Hecht said although advances have been made, domestic abuse continues to be a pervasive problem. In Maryland, an estimated 200,000 incidents of domestic violence occur annually, and more than 50 women and children die as a result of the violence each year.

The MNADV, a statewide advocacy and policy organization established in 1980, works for legislation and programs to support victims, as well as measures to curb the violence.

Among the network's legislative priorities this year is a "stalking bill" that would make it a felony to "knowingly or willingly place another person in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm" through a pattern of malicious conduct.

At yesterday's meeting, Ms. Hecht announced the organization had received two grants, which will allow the hiring of staff and the establishment of a permanent office for the first time in 12 years.

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