WASHINGTON – Jill finally got a restraining order against Steve after he held her hostage in their Baltimore home for two hours in late August. But he came back anyway.
He tied Jill up at knifepoint, slashed her neck and side, and tried to set her hair on fire while their two children watched, said Carole J. Alexander, executive director of the House of Ruth Baltimore Inc.
Alexander was on Capitol Hill Wednesday asking Congress to reauthorize funding for the Violence Against Women Act to help women like “Jill” — the real names of the woman and her partner, “Steve,” were withheld to protect their identities.
The act, which is set to expire next year, helped train the House of Ruth lawyer who is helping Jill fight for permanent custody of her children, supports the shelter where she can get counseling and can seek refuge if Steve gets out of jail, Alexander said.
“She will not be dependent on the protection order. She has wrap-around services in addition to the protection order,” said Alexander.
The Violence Against Women Act, authorized in 1994, funds services to battered women, including outreach programs, a national domestic violence hotline and training for local officials in crimes against women. Since its inception in 1994, Congress has spent about $700 million under the act.
The reauthorization would extend the act for another five years and increase funding for the national domestic violence hotline, which receives more than 5,000 calls each month.
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, and a sponsor of the bill to reauthorize the act, told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, “There is no excuse for domestic violence.”
“The crimes of domestic violence and child abuse cannot be tolerated in our society,” Morella said Wednesday.
In Maryland, there were nearly 26,000 cases of domestic violence in 1997, the latest figures available from Maryland State Police. In 1996, there were about 25,000 cases.
Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., and chairman of the subcommittee, said reauthorization of the act is likely, but that Congress must first make sure that the program is worth the investment.
“We have a responsibility to examine how well [the act] is working,” McCollum said. “The most important and difficult question to answer is whether VAWA is leading a reduction in the incidents of violent crime against women.”
But Alexander said that now is not the time to pull the plug on the program.
“We are all here for a collective goal, which is to urge you to support and continue to support the VAWA funding that was enacted in 1994,” she said. “We have only begun this battle. We have a long, long way to go.”