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Changes in the Law for Domestic Violence Month

October has been designated in Maryland as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Within Maryland this year, State Troopers have arrested 346 abusers and confiscated 77 guns from homes where there has been domestic violence.  In 2010, there were 18 homicides related to domestic abuse in Maryland.

Domestic violence is not just about physical harm. It is also about fear and psychological abuse.       Many abusers create a reign of terror that includes threats of physical violence, but carefully limit their abuse to psychological terror.  It is essential as Marylanders, and as Americans, that we constantly make progress to eliminate this scourge.

It is often very difficult for a victim of domestic violence to walk away.  In addition to the psychological pressure and threats of physical violence, a victim may have to leave work in order to escape the violence and begin the process of rebuilding the family’s life.  Many victims fear the loss of that income, and are caught between their terror of the abuser and their worry of being unable to feed themselves and their children if they try to escape.

This month, two new laws take effect that will help in the fight against domestic violence.

The first provides eligibility for unemployment benefits to a victim who leaves employment to seek help for the effects of domestic violence.  This alleviate one of the fears of victims—that to escape domestic abuse, they must take a massive risk that could endanger their ability to provide for their family.

The second adds a tracking element to criminal convictions so that a judge must record whether a crime was domestically related and record this fact in the record.  This enables law enforcement to track serial abusers more easily.

We hope that these important changes are part of an ongoing process by our legislature to help victims and survivors of domestic violence, and we will continue to do our part as family law attorneys to provide support to those who have been hurt by this terrible crime.

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