A domestic violence report shows slight increases nationally in cases of stalking, suicide and situations that involve children.
One startling statistic from the National Domestic Violence Hotline report released last week shows nearly 12,000 victims disclosed the use or threat of a firearm last year, a 74 percent increase from the previous year.
“We know that firearms are not only being discharged, but they are being used to manipulate, being used to coerce [victims],” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based hotline. “We have heard stories where women would wake up in the middle of the night with the safety being clicked off. Their partner would clean the gun and stare at them. Firearms play a significant role.”
The increase is also partly due to more people seeking help. The hotline received nearly 323,360 calls, texts and chat messaging last year, but roughly 98,000 went unanswered due to a lack of resources. The amount of incoming calls was nearly identical to 2016, with 140,390 not getting a response then.
Ray-Jones and other domestic violence advocates visited Capitol Hill Thursday to present recent findings and attempt to persuade lawmakers to fund housing and service programs for survivors who are married and those dating an abuser.
Although her group received $9.5 million for fiscal 2019, advocates seek more federal dollars for mental health services, counseling and legal services through the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act.
Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation to reauthorize the act to ensure victims have access to emergency shelters and other services through the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-779-7233.
The hotline organization notes that Maryland ranked 17th nationwide last year in contact volume. In terms of who calls, about 40 percent of those who used the hotline were White, while 39 percent were Black.
Virginia ranked 15th in the nation for contact volume, with Whites making up 52 percent of those who utilized the hotline, compared to 26 percent for Blacks.
The most commonly used service in both states was legal advocacy. However, victims named domestic violence shelters as their top need.
The hotline also collaborates with other organizations to lobby for federal legislation such as gun reform, but Ray-Jones admits it’s been a tough task, particularly the push to incorporate stalking as a crime and include victims who are just dating an alleged perpetrator. The current law focuses on those who are married or live with each other.
“This has been a difficult issue for us as well to get that increased protection,” she said. “We simply want victims of domestic violence to have protections in place.”
The same day the hotline released its report, a judge sentenced a Prince George’s County man to two life terms in prison for fatally shooting his 2-year-old daughter and her mother in February 2016.
NeShante Davis, 26, who was a county schoolteacher, had filed documentation to receive $600 per month in child support payments from Daron Boswell-Johnson, who drove to her home in Fort Washington to confront her about the expenses.
After Davis refused to drop the child support claim, Boswell-Johnson shot her and 2-year-old Chloe Davis-Green, who sat in her car seat as Davis prepared to drop her off at day care before heading to work, police said.
The shooting, one of the county’s most high-profile cases, highlighted Prince George’s distinction as the Maryland jurisdiction most likely to incur domestic violence-related homicides.
While speaking to reporters outside the county courthouse, Davis’ family thanked the community for its support and State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who personally prosecuted the case.
“We are pleased with [the sentencing],” said Cheryl Taylor, Davis’ aunt. “This will never be closure for us. Even though it is two years later, we’re still dealing with it. We are having hard times sleeping at night.”
For more information on receiving domestic violence assistance in Prince George’s County, go to https://bit.ly/2KevlOO.