Domestic abuse advocates seek secure Carroll shelter

Often-hidden violence is growing, they say

October 27, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Making their point with a video presentation that opened with children's drawings in crayon and closed with graphic photos of battered women, organizers of a conference on domestic abuse last week in Westminster said Carroll County needs a secure shelter for victims of abuse.

Pastors, social workers and criminal investigators who gathered Friday at the event addressed what they said is a growing domestic violence problem in the county and called creating a shelter the most pressing need.

In the past few months, Carroll County has had three deaths linked to domestic violence. And, in two cases investigated last week, children came to school with visible injuries traced to violence in the home.

On Monday, investigators were called to a hospital emergency room, where a 6-year-old with a concussion and a bulge on his forehead was being treated.

His stepmother had slammed his head into door hinges, said Rosanna P. Bryson, investigator with the child abuse/sexual assault unit in the Carroll state's attorney office.

"The reason we don't have a domestic violence center is because this kind of violence is the biggest dirty secret our society has," Bryson said. "It is hard for victims to tell."

Bryson told the pastors that statistics show that one of every three families in the county is affected by violence in the home.

The state's attorney's office investigates nearly 1,000 cases of domestic violence annually.

The killing of a Westminster woman in August stemmed from a custody dispute, according to authorities. And the deaths of a husband and wife from Union Mills in July were determined by police to be a murder-suicide.

The prosecutor's office asked churches and other civic agencies to identify gaps in services for victims. About 120 congregations were invited to the conference. About 30 sent a representative.

"There is still a sentiment that this is not happening in `my congregation' or that the pastor can handle it," said Patricia J. Lanning, director of Carroll County Services for families and children.

"I had a victim this week whose pastor had given her a hard time for seeking a protective order from the courts," Lanning said.

Patricia Brink, principal of St. John Catholic School in Westminster, attended as a representative of her parish.

"With the economic stress on people today, I fear this problem will become increasingly more visible," Brink said.

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