Experts discuss domestic violence prevention in Baltimore

By SABRINA ABRAMS | November 29, 2018

Hopkins United Against Inequities in Disease hosted a panel focusing on domestic violence in Baltimore. Speakers included School of Public Health Professor Shannon Frattaroli, University of Maryland Professor of Law Leigh Goodmark and TurnAround representative Samantha Black. 

The panelists discussed issues of domestic violence and potential solutions on a national level and local level. Each panelist emphasized the importance of domestic violence prevention. 

Frattaroli’s research focuses on gun use in domestic violence. 

“I’ve chosen to focus on guns because it’s something that’s very tangible that we can look at from a policy perspective. We can control, regulate more than some of the other risk factors of domestic violence,” she said.

She brought up current laws which ban those who have received restraining orders related to domestic abuse from purchasing guns. According to her, this has led to a resounding correlated decrease in domestic violence. Frattaroli explained the need for law enforcement to be increasingly proactive in dispossessing guns from people who commit domestic violence.

“It’s logical that we could see a reduction in intimate partner homicide,” Frattaroli said.

Black works with TurnAround, a Baltimore nonprofit that works with survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking. She also works to facilitate the Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) program at Hopkins. 

Black began by presenting TurnAround as a resource for survivors of domestic violence, explaining what the organization does and informing attendees about its 24/7 helpline. She then described different forms of abuse, identifying categories like physical, emotional, financial and sexual. 

Black described the differences between healthy and unhealthy arguments.

“In an unhealthy argument, that’s when it starts to spiral, that’s when an explosion will happen, whether it’s physical or emotional violence, it occurs,” Black said. 

She gave a detailed description of the cycles of violence that occur in abusive relationships and explained how they make it increasingly difficult for survivors to escape. Survivors, she emphasized, can get entrenched in patterns of abuse that encompass their lives, and they often feel compelled to hide their experiences from friends and family. 

“There’s a lot of shame that comes with this particular form of violence, and victims will do a lot to cover that,” Black said. 

Black highlighted TurnAround’s empowerment approach, where no two individuals have the same experience with the group, and emphasized the need for individuals to empower their friends who are in the process of seeking help. She stressed the importance of allowing survivors of domestic abuse to remain in control of their experience. 

“The last thing I want to do is tell my friend what they’re going to do and how they’re going to escape this terrible person, because now I’m just another person that’s taking control,” Black said. 

For sophomore Vicki DeCastro, Black’s discussion of her work with TurnAround was a highlight of the event.

“I enjoyed learning about the organization TurnAround, which provides all kinds of resources to victims and survivors of domestic violence,” DeCastro said.

Next, Goodmark discussed her work regarding the criminalization of domestic violence. While she agrees that domestic violence ought to be criminalized and that incarceration of domestic abusers is necessary, she highlighted the importance of finding more prevention tactics in a society of mass incarceration. Goodmark also explained that although the domestic violence rate has been dropping in the U.S., other crime rates have also dropped since 2000. 

“We are precluding preventing the development of other kinds of responses that may actually be more successful,” Goodmark said. 

She also advocated for empowering survivors of domestic violence so they are financially able to support themselves. 

Goodmark further asserted that just due to the sheer number of discrete incidents, if every instance of domestic violence resulted in prosecution and incarceration, the prison population in America would increase by a third. She used this statistic to argue in favor of developing more preventative measures to reduce domestic violence. 

Goodmark spoke in favor of building a broader coalition beyond incarceration.

“We should be pursuing some of these other strategies,” Goodmark said. 

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