Karma VonMattocks recalled when someone called her out of her name and then pushed her.
The reason? Because that person liked her.
This interaction occurred last month between two children in middle school.
Karma, 11, slapped the boy’s face after he touched her and used an inappropriate name toward her.
“Then he asked me to go out with him” later, the sixth grade student said.
Her mother, Brittany Russell-Nibblett, 30, of Glenn Dale, said she had mixed feelings about her daughter’s reaction.
“In one aspect I’m glad she advocated for herself, but I told her that using your hands is not the way to solve problems,” Russell-Nibblett said.
The mother and daughter spoke about this experience Saturday, Sept. 29 at a “Mother Daughter Tea: Girls Talk. Love Unlimited” hosted by the Prince George’s County Department of Family Services.
The etiquette of tea offered a dainty social occasion for girls and women to wear fancy dresses and hats, eat finger food and, of course, sip tea, while discussing domestic violence, one of the most prevalent topics in the county.
The event, held ahead of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, was attended by nearly 200 people at the Camelot by Martin’s in Upper Marlboro and focused on dialogue to encourage healthy relationships and self-love. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five adult women and about one in seven adult men report experiencing severe physical violence via an intimate partner in their lifetime.
They discussed various scenarios a victim may endure, involving housing, jobs and other situations, en route to become a survivor.
In another room, mothers and daughters conducted artwork on canvas to trace and color a butterfly, which symbolizes growth and hope.
County and domestic violence advocacy organizations distributed information for counseling, telephone numbers and community programs for girls.
Jackie Rhone, division manager for the family services department, said only 33 percent of teenage girls involved in an abusive relationship tell anyone about the abuse.
“In many cases, they know each other and love each other,” she said. “It’s really hard to call the police on someone that you love, but I absolutely do believe the protective order numbers are going up because we are doing a better job of communicating what an abusive relationship looks like and letting people know they can seek a protective order to get out of that situation.”
In Maryland, Prince George’s led the state for several in years in domestic violence homicide rates, but the county executive said it’s decreased by 20 percent in the past year.
Sheriff Melvin C. High said his office receives about 20,000 protective and peace orders annually, a number that is slowly rising.
Although both government and private agencies collaborate and provide resources that allows more people to speak out, High admitted domestic violence remains one of the most complex issues in the department because it deals with a person’s emotional state.
“We sometimes see people out together when a woman is looking well-dressed and she attracts the observation of others,” he said. “So that person she’s in a relationship with reacts angrily and improperly. Trying to deal with the human psyche is very complex.”
That’s why the county’s Family Services Department offers a program called “The Men’s Challenge,” which centers on men living without violence and provides discussions on fatherhood, de-escalation and social responsibility.
Three more sessions will be held this fall on Oct. 8 and 22 and Nov. 5 at the family service’s building in Camp Springs.
Rosalynd Manley and her 7-year-old daughter EmauniJ receive plenty of support from her husband and three sons.
Manley, who graduated from Central High School in 1998 and now resides in neighboring Charles County, witnessed domestic violence through her parents and later experienced a volatile relationship of her own in her 20s.
EmauniJ, who sported a similar yellow flower hat like her mother, said she conducts a daily self-love routine.
“I yell, “I am beautiful’ in the mirror,” said EmauniJ, who also authored the book, “What Do I Look Like?”. “[Brothers] taught me to fight. They take care of me.”
As for Karma, she helped a friend she met last month in middle school who had suicidal thoughts.
“I told her to say her name six times,” she said as her mother dabbed tears from her eyes. “It helps who you are and feel better. She did, too.”
For anyone involved in a volatile situation, here’s a few phone numbers:
• Resources in Maryland: dial 211.
• Family Crisis Center: 301-731-1203.
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.