There was a time in our not-too-distant past when, as a society, we operated under the belief that domestic violence and sexual assault – as long as it wasn’t happening in our homes and to our family members – wasn’t our problem to solve.
Too many families have been devastated by domestic violence, including mine. When my cousin Cathy was shot and killed by her estranged boyfriend several years ago, I knew that loss would stay with us forever. We can’t bring back victims like Cathy, but we honor their memories by working, each and every day, to end domestic violence throughout our nation.
In Maryland, we’ve made tremendous progress to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault. As Lt. Governor I lead the effort to remove guns from the hands of abusers, allow victims to receive unemployment insurance, provide tenants who are victims with the ability to break their lease, made it easier for victims to obtain a protective order, gave judges the ability to mark a case as “domestically related” to better track patterns of abuse, doubled the number of hospitals with domestic violence and sexual assault screening and assessment programs, and worked with law enforcement officials and advocates to implement the life-saving Lethality Assessment Program in jurisdictions throughout Maryland.
But for all of our success, we still have work to do. As an advocate in Congress, I will work to end domestic violence by:
- Reauthorizing and expanding funding for the Violence Against Women Act to hold offenders accountable and provide funds to support services for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
- Establishing hospital-based domestic violence screening, referral and assistance programs in community hospitals across the country.
- Requiring cell phone carriers to allow victims and survivors of domestic violence in possession of a final protective order to separate, without penalty, from their partner’s cell phone contract.
- Ensuring that all law enforcement officers and first responders receive the latest domestic violence training including the Lethality Assessment Program that was created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
- Supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act to address the economic challenges facing domestic violence victims and survivors, wage discrimination and pay inequality.
Domestic violence and sexual assaults destroys not just individual homes and individual lives, but communities. It does lasting harm to our children, and forces too many Americans to live in fear. Changing our culture of violence starts in our homes and in our neighborhoods – each of us, no matter where we live, needs to do more to stand up, speak out, and stop domestic violence and sexual assault.