ROCKVILLE – Vice President Joe Biden praised Maryland as a national model for combating domestic violence in a speech Wednesday in Rockville.
“We are constantly told that nothing can be done about this,” Biden said to an assembled group of local politicians, law enforcement officials and domestic violence protection workers in the Montgomery County Executive Office Building. “That’s what I was told, that’s what a lot of you were told….but we all refuse to accept that.”
Biden cited the success of lethality assessment programs in Maryland, which seek to determine the level of threat posed to domestic violence victims.
The program has allowed Maryland law enforcement officials to identify and provide support services to 25,000 “high danger” domestic violence victims, Attorney General Eric Holder said in his remarks.
Building on this success, Holder announced that the Justice Department will award $2.3 million to 12 cities and counties around the country to support new programs aimed at preventing domestic violence.
“Let me make it clear: we believe that this will save lives. It’s saved lives in the state of Maryland already,” Biden said.
Overall, domestic violence crimes decreased 18.4 percent in Maryland between 2006 and 2010, according to statistics from the Governor’s Office of Crime & Prevention. Women account for 75 percent of domestic violence victims in Maryland.
Biden, who has been working on prevention efforts for 22 years and was the chief author of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, called domestic violence “the most tragic of all crimes.”
“We have to do every single thing in our power to keep these tragedies from occurring,” he said. “No man has the right to raise his hand to a woman for any reason at all, for any reason at all, other than self-defense.”
Much has been learned about the behavioral patterns associated with potential violent offenders, Biden said. He also talked about the effectiveness of domestic violence hotlines.
After finishing his remarks, Holder introduced Janet Blackburn, a Maryland woman affected by domestic violence. Blackburn’s sister, along with three nieces and nephews, were killed by her sister’s ex-husband in 2007.
“I can’t help but think if the lethality assessment program was in place for my sister I might not be standing here right now,” she said.
Biden’s comments about domestic violence efforts in Maryland echoed those of Sen. Ben Cardin and Gov. Martin O’Malley, who spoke before the grant program announcement.
“The programs that have been started here are model programs,” said Cardin, referring to the work of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
Cardin said there is a “direct relationship” between guns and domestic violence, and backed legislation mandating background checks for all weapon purchasers.
The junior senator from Maryland also talked about the importance of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act and extending its protections to “all victims” of domestic violence.
The legislation, co-authored by then-Sen. Biden, provides services and protections to victims of domestic violence.
But, Cardin said, “We need to do a better job. We know that one death is one too many.”
O’Malley talked about the importance of collaboration and information-sharing among state, local and federal governments.
“We do not believe that violent crime is something that is driven by the Gulf Stream or barometric pressure,” he said. “Together, we have the ability to drive violent crime down by doing more of the things that we know work.”
O’Malley also mentioned legislation passed in the General Assembly that allows judges in Maryland to remove guns from the homes of “abusive and violent offenders.”
“In Maryland, we choose to govern by results,” O’Malley said. “We know what works, and we know we need to do more of it.”
After finishing their remarks, Cardin and O’Malley shook a few hands, found their seats in the front row of the room and waited for Holder and Biden to speak.
“I’ve been speaking too long,” Biden said, before finishing up. “I feel too strongly about this subject, I guess.”