An array of Maryland lawmakers and nonprofit executives came together April 30 to announce a partnership with the region’s faith-based community to address domestic violence against women and children.

This new partnership with the faith community involves 42 churches in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia who identify one female and one male in their congregation to serve as liaisons and refer domestic violence issues to Still I Rise Inc., a Prince George’s County, Md.-based nonprofit organization.

Present for the announcement at the nonprofit’s headquarters was Still I Rise CEO Dr. Glenda Hodges; Prince Georges County Police Chief Melvin High; council chair and District 9 council member, Mel Franklin (D); District 7 council member, Karen Toles (D); Maryland Finance Extension Educator, Patricia Maynard; and Maryland Legal Aid director of program development and compliance, Denise McCain.

Founded in 2001, Still I Rise Inc. is an organization dedicated to helping rebuild the lives of women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

“We are rooted and grounded in the faith community, so we believe that we could take our problems and situations to the church, but oftentimes the church doesn’t have the appropriate resources,” said Hodges, the group’s founder. “We know that sometimes the pastors will inform people and give them information without training that may not be in their best interest.”

Through the partnership, pastors and other church representatives will be trained to identify victims of domestic violence. In addition, they will receive printed materials such as flyers, brochures, and palm cards containing information on services offered by Still I Rise Inc. Battered women and children who are referred to the organization will be provided with six hours of free counseling sessions, including legal, financial and housing support.

Pastor David Cunningham of First Baptist Church of Colonial Beach in Virginia said the partnership is another way for the church to extend its outreach to the community. Cunningham said two women have been already referred to the organization as a result of the partnership.

Council member Franklin and Toles both expressed their support of the partnership. Toles noted that domestic violence is an issue in the community, especially issue in the 7th and 9th Districts, where domestic violence is prevalent.

“We stand here in support to get resources and funding and support to spread the message through our listserve, and through our database,” said Toles.

High said law enforcement officials have worked to change the culture of silence in domestic violence incidents by trying to encourage victims that “it’s okay to come forward, to speak about their experiences and what’s happening in their lives so that the help that’s available can be given to them.”

Natasha Brown, 32, of Prince Georges County, was once a domestic violence victim who used Still I Rise Inc. resources and now volunteers with the organization. She hopes the faith community will be able to identify couples who are in an unhealthy relationship before it escalates into physical violence.

Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO