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Domestic Violence: Not Just a Personal Problem, But a Social Justice Issue

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Established in 1987, Domestic Violence Awareness Month was created to educate the public about domestic violence and build community amongst those affected by it. That same year, the first national domestic violence toll-free hotline was created. In 1989, October was designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Another tradition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is Purple Thursday. Participants wear purple to honor survivors of domestic violence and raise awareness about domestic violence, dating violence, and unhealthy/healthy relationships. This year’s Purple Thursday will be on October 19th.

Domestic violence awareness ribbon

According to, approximately 10 million people in the United States become victims of domestic violence every year. To improve the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence, the Violence Against Women Act was signed into legislation by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is federal legislation that initiated grant programs to local, state, and tribal governments; non-profit organizations; and universities to address crimes of intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This law has also led to the creation of the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice, which manages these grant programs (The Violence Against Women Act: Overview, Legislation, and Federal Funding (

Additionally, the state of Maryland offers protective orders and peace orders to protect individuals from their abusers. Protective orders, which are governed by Maryland Family Law § 4-501, are no-contact orders issued by a judge to protect someone who has been a domestic violence or abuse victim. Peace orders, which are governed by Maryland Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings §3-1501, protect people who may be experiencing harassment, stalking, or other threatening behavior that isn’t domestic violence (

Williams, McClernan, and Stack LLC have extensive experience working with victims of domestic violence. WMS Attorneys Marsha Williams and Alycia Stack both started out their legal careers at domestic violence legal clinics. Marsha started at the House of Ruth MD (Home - House of Ruth Maryland ( and Alycia was at Southern MD Center for Family Advocacy.

Signs of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence often happens under the radar and can impact anyone regardless of gender, age, race, etc. Domestic violence can manifest as physical abuse; or emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse (manipulation, yelling, threats, etc.). Some warning signs to be vigilant of if you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence include: isolation from friends and family, low self-esteem, unexplained injuries from “accidents” or “being clumsy”, depression, and anxiety. Recognizing these signs can be the first step to preventing domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Resources in Southern Maryland

If you or know someone who may need assistance or would like to support victims of domestic violence, here are some resources in Southern Maryland to check out:

The Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy (

MNADV – Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence

SMC Family Violence Coordinating Council (

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