WASHINGTON – For the last seven years, every time “Mary’s” husband came home drunk, he became physically abusive — pushing, shoving and throwing things at her, according to Sharon Schmidt, shelter manager at the Mid-shore Council for Family Violence, who chose a pseudonym to protect the victim.
One day after a beating, Mary told a Mid-shore counselor that she wanted to get a protective order so she could be safe in her home with her three children. Finally, Mary wanted out.
But given a few hours to think about where this was going to leave her, she changed her mind.
While the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that the frequency and violence of domestic abuse increases during hard financial times, local Maryland requests for aid are down in the last, recession-plagued year. Ironically, experts said, the economy is still to blame.
“If he’s arrested, he won’t be able to work and I need for him to work to pay,” Mary explained to the hotline counselor. “I can’t make it on my own.”
That’s what service providers throughout Maryland are hearing. “In this area, I think people are staying in these abusive relationships because of the economy,” said Jeanne Yeager, executive director for the council. “They’re weighing the factors of where they are going to go and the reality is on the Eastern Shore, we don’t have low-income housing, they’re going to live in a communal shelter, there’s not a lot of job opportunities for them, there’s no housing opportunities for them and no transportation system, so they would have to have a vehicle.”
The Mid-Shore Council for Family Violence serves families in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties.
The Mid-Shore Council said it received nine fewer hotline calls during July to October of this year than it had in the same period last year. In addition, last year the organization had 219 intake clients in that same period compared to 181 this year.
“I’ve been with the agency for 13 years now, so I see the trends,” Schmidt said.
“There was a time where women could go out and afford to get housing. They were able to make it O.K. on their own, where now housing is so unaffordable. When you’re talking about somebody receiving $450 a month from assistance, how is she supposed to afford rent and a family?”