The Maryland Program for Victims of Domestic Violence
The State of Maryland recognizes the uniquely dangerous situation that confronts victims of domestic violence. As these victims have a close relationship with their abuser, it can be difficult to break away and seek help. To address this problem, the Maryland General Assembly created a program for victims of domestic violence. Among its many goals, this program required the establishment of at least one domestic violence shelter in every major population center across the state.
Why Does the Program for Victims of Domestic Violence Exist?
Maryland Code, Family Law Section 4-514 details the purpose of the state program for victims of domestic violence. The General Assembly created this program because many victims of domestic violence:
- Must leave their home to protect their health, safety, and general welfare;
- Are sometimes financially dependent upon their abuser and, thus, cannot secure a safe alternative housing arrangement; and
- Have been overlooked or even ignored in the past, making it extremely difficult to secure necessary services like alternative housing, counseling, and other support.
Who Qualifies as a Victim of Domestic Violence?
Maryland Code, Family Law Section 4-513 defines the term” victim of domestic violence”. An individual qualifies as a victim of domestic violence if they:
- Sustained a deliberate, demonstrable, and severe physical injury; or
- Have reasonable and imminent fear that such an injury will occur.
There is an important limitation in this context. The abuser must have been a spouse or cohabitant of the victim. A cohabitant is someone who had a sexual relationship with the victim and resided in the same home for at least 90 days in the year preceding the domestic violence incident.
What Services are Available to Victims of Domestic Violence?
Maryland Code, Family Law Section 4-515 outlines the services available to victims of domestic violence. More specifically, this program enables domestic violence victims and their children to:
- Secure temporary and safe shelter;
- Obtain assistance with securing temporary and safe shelter;
- Acquire counseling services;
- Seek information or referrals; and
- Gain access to rehabilitation services.
How Does Maryland Manage the Victims of Domestic Violence Program?
Section 4-515 also provides several required conditions for the management of the victims of domestic violence program, including:
- Victims of domestic violence and their children must be able to secure temporary and safe housing as well as counseling services;
- The Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services oversees the program, sets the standard of care, and monitors the operations;
- The program will receive victims of domestic violence and their children from the police or any other source of referral; and
- Temporary and safe housing is only available to victims of domestic violence residing in Maryland at the time of application.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about domestic violence or other legal issues in Maryland, it can be markedly helpful to contact a well-established family law attorney. The Bel Air domestic violence attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including domestic violence. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.