WASHINGTON – Some Maryland Girl Scouts may soon have a different patch sharing space on their uniforms with the traditional camping and hiking patches — one that says “Stop Domestic Violence.”
The four-state Shawnee Girl Scout Council, which includes 107 troops in Western Maryland, has created a patch for domestic violence awareness as a first step toward breaking the cycle of abuse in its rural region.
Since news of the patch leaked out this week, the council has received inquiries about the new patch from interested Girl Scout troops as far away as California and North Dakota.
“People tend to think of us for camping, cookies and crafts, but we touch on more issues now than we did 20 years ago,” said Dee Covey, executive director of the Shawnee Council. “We try to keep a handle on what is of prominent concern and because many of us are in rural Appalachia, there is a lot of abuse.”
The Shawnee Council covers more than 700 troops Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including troops in Maryland’s Washington and Allegany counties. The council will officially unveil the patch at its annual meeting March 20.
The turquoise-and-green circular patch says “Stop Domestic Violence” in red letters. It can be earned by Girl Scouts who bring a domestic-violence awareness speaker to the troop and who also performs age-appropriate activities that teach how to respond to domestic-violence situations.
“We developed it here, but we want to share our program, whether it is with another Girl Scout Council or a church group, because the purpose is to break the cycle,” Covey said.
The National Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. has inquired about the program. While the domestic violence program is not offered nationwide by the Girl Scouts, addressing modern issues is, said spokeswoman Lori Arguelles.
“The idea behind contemporary Girl Scouting is addressing a full-range of issues, and domestic violence would be one of them,” she said.
The national “contemporary Girl Scouting” concept will be highlighted next week, Arguelles said, as part of the events honoring the national organization’s 87th anniversary.
The focus on contemporary issues makes Scouting “really … different from when I was a Girl Scout,” said Maureen Miller, leader of Hagerstown’s Troop 602. “They are not just doing the arts and crafts.”
Miller said the older girls in her troop, for example, have opted to go after patches for technology, photography and handling personal finances, rather than the cooking and nutrition patches of decades past.
“We really try to handle issues of today,” she said.
Rebecca Hyman, a therapist with the Second Step domestic abuse and sexual assault center in Baltimore, applauded the Scouts for teaching girls of all ages about domestic violence.
“We have seen sixth- and seventh-grade girls here with boyfriends who hit them,” Hyman said. “But if we get them thinking about it in fourth grade, then we can plant the seeds of healthy relationships where respect is first and foremost.”
Hagerstown Girl Scout Lauren Miller, 17, said she would be interested in trying for the new patch.
“Even though it doesn’t apply to my life, you never what can happen,” Lauren said. “There might be someone who needs my help.”