Guide offers victims of violence a map to recovery

December 18, 2005|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

Victims of rape, domestic violence, incest and bullying lent personal messages, written on T-shirts, to the launch of a comprehensive guide designed to find them help on their paths to recovery.

At a ceremony that included a poignant video and thought-provoking improvisational skits dealing with violence, officials unveiled a 133-page book, Responding to Interpersonal Violence in Carroll County, Maryland, last week.

The resource directory offers victims "a road map toward recovery," according to its preface, providing lists of agencies, contact information and tips on how others might help.

T-shirts created by victims of violence lined the walls and spread across the stage of the Scott Center at Carroll Community College.

Carroll's Local Management Board, a group of public and private organizations that work to improve the lives of children and families, expanded on the national Clothesline Project, a program started 15 years ago in Massachusetts to address the issue of violence against women, to include all victims. The Carroll County version, which began a year ago, includes 82 shirts created by victims who range in age from 8 to 67.

"The shirts put a face on the data," said Laura Rhodes, manager of community health for the local board. "These were all made by people who live in Carroll County - our neighbors, friends, co-workers."

Conference organizers stressed the pervasiveness of the problem, which crosses all boundaries of generation, gender, race and religion. The messages on the shirts gave disturbing witness to the need for victims assistance programs. One shirt had no text, only a screaming face. Another simply gave the dates of a life cut short by a spouse. One child wrote, "Daddy was supposed to protect me, not hurt me."

"Take time to visit these shirts," Rhodes said. "These people and future victims are why we are here today and why we made the directory."

About $12,000 of a $37,000 grant from the state Office of Crime Control and Prevention paid for compiling and printing 5,000 copies of the directory. The grant also funded victim-assistance training programs and a domestic-violence conference last year that drew more than 200 people and created the concept for the directory.

"This directory is the final step in our grant, but not the final step for the people who need our help," said Powel Welliver, family law administrator for Carroll County Circuit Court. "We can look to help more and more people because of the efforts put together today."

In his remarks to an audience of about 100, County Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said, "It is important to address the effects of violence and to expand our capacity to respond. That is why this directory was developed."

The event included skits enacted by area high school and college students who are members of FoolProof Improvisational Theatre. The actors portrayed participants in scenes that involved bullying, teenage suicide, date rape and domestic violence, and they stayed in character to answer questions from the audience.

The skits showed "what our children have to deal with daily," Welliver said. The directory "comes from all the different angles of people dealing with these problems," she said. She urged the audience to "carry this book around and hand it to people."

Mary M. Scholz, administrator of the management board, asked one more favor: fill out the pledge card in the program. Del. Tanya Thornton Shewell, who serves on the state legislature's judicial committee, shared her pledge.

"I promise to continue to support laws to protect people from violence," Shewell said. "I will work for prevention, trying to stop problems before they get out of hand."

Scholz said she hopes to compile the pledges and share them with victims. "They need to know their community is willing to respond," Scholz said.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

Directory for victims

Copies of the resource directory are available at all five branches of the Carroll County Public Library and will soon be posted on the Local Management Board's Web site. Information: 410-386-3600.

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