Donated phones supporting effort against domestic violence Carroll County to get five cellular telephones for abuse victims to use

November 16, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

As part of a statewide initiative to combat domestic violence, the Carroll County state's attorney's office will receive five cellular phones for abuse victims to use in emergencies.

The phones are part of a state effort to get businesses involved in helping to protect victims of domestic violence, officials say.

Partners Against Violence: The CEO Challenge, announced last month by the Attorney General's and Lieutenant Governor's Family Violence Council, is designed to confront domestic violence in the workplace by enlisting employers in the fight.

Last year in Maryland, 14,721 protective orders were sought by victims of domestic violence and an estimated half of those created problems in the workplace, state officials said.

The comprehensive program was founded on the belief that businesses can be a catalyst for change in the struggle against domestic violence in their communities, said Holly Funk, director of the Family Violence Council, which was formed by the governor's office in 1996.

The council, co-chaired by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, wants business leaders to realize that family violence can spill over into the workplace, costing employers an estimated $3 billion to $6 billion annually because of worker absenteeism, increased health care costs, higher turnover and lower productivity.

"We also want business owners to realize that becoming partners is a mutually beneficial relationship," Funk said.

State leads way

Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered Oct. 1 that Maryland, as an employer, would initiate domestic violence awareness training for its employees and develop domestic violence policies within the next year.

Audrey Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Bell Atlantic Mobile, said the cellular phone initiative began in 1996, with the donation of 25 phones each to Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Another 25 were given in August to the Howard County state's attorney's office.

In all, 300 phones have been donated at a cost of about $150,000 over the three years, Schaefer said.

In Prince George's County, the Bell Atlantic program reaped perhaps its biggest reward this year when a man, confronted at work by his shotgun-toting ex-wife, used a donated phone to get police help, Schaefer said.

In addition to the five phones headed for Carroll County, Schaefer said 100 have been earmarked for the Maryland State Police domestic violence initiative.

Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, said procedures on how the telephones would be divided among five regional domestic violence coordinators would be worked out.

"The need to assist victims [of domestic violence] is, and always has been, something which Colonel Mitchell [state police superintendent David B. Mitchell] has sought in conjunction with the Governor's Office and the Family Violence Council," Shipley said.

More phones available

Other counties and domestic violence victim service providers have been invited to request the cellular telephones, Burns said.

Gary Cofflin, investigator for Carroll's domestic violence unit, said he wished he had requested more than five phones.

"We have about 40 active cases and every one of the victims could make good use of a cellular phone," he said.

Other businesses are joining.

Chesapeake Human Resources Association has agreed to develop domestic violence awareness materials for distribution to its member businesses.

The House of Ruth, a Baltimore shelter for battered women, has received $150,000 in state grants to educate businesses about the emotional and economic impact of domestic violence in the workplace.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has joined with the St. Mary's County Women's Center to provide domestic violence training and to sponsor an annual golf tournament benefit.

College Park Honda/Hyundai will provide a new vehicle every 5,000 miles to the Domestic Violence Program of Prince George's County and encourage other area businesses to join the battle.

In Montgomery County, existing service providers launched Work to End Domestic Violence, a program designed to offer free domestic violence training to area businesses and initiate community awareness through bumper stickers, e-mails, and training manuals.

Pub Date: 11/16/98

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