Federal law’s passage helps Frederick domestic violence center -- Gazette.Net


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The Heartly House in Frederick will be able to continue to provide counseling and telephone hotline services for victims of domestic abuse without having to cut hours of service now that Congress has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, an official said Monday.

The reauthorization was tied up on Congress for months, and Maryland advocates for the victims of abuse had warned that services would have to be reduced if it was not passed soon.

Heartly House receives about $30,000 in federal funding annually under the law, which helps fund some of the hotline and counseling services, said Tammy Keener, community educator for the nonprofit organization.

During the last fiscal year, the organization’s hotline answered more than 11,000 phone calls and provided nearly 4,000 counseling sessions to victims of domestic violence in Frederick County.

There were 265 reported domestic violence cases reported to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in 2011, the most recent year available, resulting in 85 arrests, spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said.

The center operates on about a $2 million annual budget, with 61 percent coming from federal and state grants from other programs and the rest from donations, private foundations and other charitable organizations.

Funding from the Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 1994, provides counseling, shelter and other services to the victims of domestic violence and rape, as well as specialized training for police and prosecutors.

The U.S. Senate reauthorized the act earlier this year on a 78-22 vote, with all 22 opponents Republicans.

For months, the Republican-led House of Representatives had not brought the Senate version of the reauthorization to a vote in part because it expanded coverage to new groups.

The Senate bill, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) of Baltimore, includes new provisions to cover same-sex couples and undocumented immigrants. It also allows for the prosecution of non-Native Americans in tribal courts if they abuse Native-American women in tribal areas.

A similar bill passed the Senate in the last Congress, but the House did not take it up before the last session ended in December.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, brought the Senate version to the floor for a vote despite opposition from members of his own party, where it passed 286-138 with 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans voting in favor.

Maryland’s two senators and seven of the eight House representatives voted for it, with the only exception being the delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville.

Opposing the Violence Against Women Act puts Republicans in a difficult position, said Laura Hussey, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Some Republicans opposed it because they are looking to cut federal spending or because they oppose the federal government involvement in what should be a state issue, Hussey said.

However, opposing the reauthorization of the act also played into the Democratic message from the 2012 campaign that Republicans are waging a “war Against women,” Hussey said.

Statewide, the Violence Against Women Act last year provided $5 million to agencies.

An estimated 25 percent of women have reported being the victim of domestic violence at least once in their lifetime, and another one in six reports having experienced either a rape or attempted rape, Mikulski said.

Rep. John Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac hailed the passage of the bill.

“Violence against women isn’t acceptable, and I applaud my colleagues in the House for finally ending the partisan stalemate,” Delaney said in a statement. “Sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking shouldn’t be partisan issues. This is about standing with the women of this country, increasing their safety, and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

cford@gazette.net