Following the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Attorney General J. Joseph Curran and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend held fact-finding forums throughout Maryland. Their focus was on crimes against women, with the intent of determining from domestic violence survivors the extent of this problem and to develop immediate measures to combat this crime. The overwhelming statistics produced from this initiative resulted in the establishment of the Family Violence Council co-chaired by the Attorney General and Lt. Governor. Under the directives of the State Council, Local Domestic Violence Coordinating Councils were developed.

In Prince George's County we have a well established Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which has been in existence over 10 years. Members include: Current Chair, District Court Judge, Patrice Lewis; Office of the State's Attorney; Office of the Sheriff; Prince George's County Police Department; Parole & Probation; Mental Hygiene Office of the Court; Child Protective Services; Sexual Assault Center; Juvenile Justice; Family Crisis Center (shelter and counseling); House of Ruth (legal advocacy); Compassion Power (batterer's counseling); Zonta (professional women's volunteer association); The Human Relations Commission, Community Ministries, and Andrews Air Force Base Family Advocacy Unit. We work as a collaborative unit assisting each other with problems placed before the Council, on new initiatives, and community outreach. Specific individuals also serve as liaisons to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence and the State Family Violence Council.

The administrative work of the Council is accomplished through a Council Coordinator, funded by a VAWA grant. The Coordinator develops agendas, chairs meetings in the absence of the Chair, maintains and disburses minutes and provides subcommittee assistance. An ongoing goal of the Council is to maintain a comprehensive representation of pertinent County agencies and organizations. To that end, this year we anticipate adding members from the Board of Education and the Local Management Board. Guests are welcome to attend Council meetings which are held the first Wednesday of each month.

By Norma Harley
Director, Domestic
Violence Program
Office of the State's Attorney