It is normal to have a hard time deciding what to do when you’re in an abusive relationship. You are not alone. There is help available.
What to expect when you call a domestic violence program in Maryland
When you call the Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline or your local domestic violence agency you’ll talk to a caring person who will listen carefully without judging you or your situation. Advocates can help you think about your options and determine what steps and services will work best for you.
Our advocates may ask questions to learn more about your situation, but will always take your lead. While they will not presume to know what is best for you, they will ask that you consider all possible scenarios and outcomes so that you can make the best decision about action steps for you and your children.
Each comprehensive domestic violence agency works with people of all races, ethnicities, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, cultural backgrounds, religions, and all economic and social backgrounds. Services are free and confidential. They will not report you to immigration, ICE, or law enforcement if you are undocumented.
The Comprehensive Domestic Violence Agencies offer all of some of the following services
Most local programs have a 24/7 hotline for crisis support, advocacy, information and referrals. You do not have to be in crisis to call the hotline. You may also call the hotline if you are a friend or family member of a survivor who needs support or information.
A safety plan is a personalized and practical plan for reducing the risk of being hurt. It helps you to identify things you can do to better protect you and your children at home, school, work, and in the community. Your safety plan can change at any time, it is an evolving process based upon your individual situation.
Many of the programs facilitate support groups to help survivors cope, share experiences, and explore options for safety.
Shelter and Housing Options
Safe and confidential housing is available if you must leave your home because your safety is at risk. While there you can receive safety planning, counseling, group support and help with exploring options for a safer future.
Court Advocates in criminal courts can describe what can be expected during court proceedings and help you navigate your way through the court system. They can provide you with information about the court case, including civil restraining orders and criminal protective orders, to help you make informed decisions. Some programs in Maryland also have in-house attorneys to assist survivors with divorce, custody, and civil cases.
Counseling and Support Groups
Many programs provide in-house, individual counseling, providing you with a supportive environment for exploring your thoughts and feelings, as well as resources and supports for you and your family. Most also offer support groups as well.
What to expect when you call the police
The goal of law enforcement is always to ensure the victim’s safety. Most police departments understand the importance of responding quickly to calls about domestic violence. The first thing they will do when they arrive is to make sure that no further injuries will occur.
The police must then gather facts about what happened so that they can decide what to do. They may talk to anyone who was part of the incident, or who witnessed or heard the incident. They will look to see if there is any “physical evidence” of an altercation, such as bruises or blood on a person, torn clothing, or, for instance, broken furniture. Based on what the officers hear or see, and the witnesses’ and victims’ statements, they will decide whether a crime has been committed and whether anyone should be arrested.
Sometimes the police will arrest a person when they come to the scene; sometimes they will arrest the person later; and sometimes they will never make an arrest. In almost all family violence cases, the police must arrest anyone they believe has committed a crime, based on the facts.
In many Maryland communities law enforcement officers are trained to connect survivors to the local domestic violence agency to assist you or encourage you to call yourself. Maryland’s domestic violence agencies have close working relationships with their local law enforcement agencies and work together to ensure your safety and that your abuser is held accountable for his or her actions.