In an effort to end domestic violence and abuse in the county, the Prince George's County Council will give $500,000 to nonprofit organizations that support victims for this fiscal year.
The council created the Domestic Violence Grant Program, which is accessible through an online application, last year when it noticed an increase in domestic violence crimes, said Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis. Last fiscal year, 11 nonprofit organizations were awarded grant funding.
From July 2015 to June 2016, there were 55 domestic violence fatalities in Maryland. The county saw 18 domestic violence-related deaths during the same period, the highest figure out of any county in the state, according to a report from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
"We discovered that there were several entities in our communities that attempted to provide resources to persons who were going through the horrible reality of domestic violence," Davis said. "It then became a matter of collaboration in ensuring that there were some dollars or financial resources designated so we can attempt to see opportunities for collaboration."
To address domestic violence, the council relies on a "safety net," made up of courts, police and sheriffs, as well as the departments of social, family and health services, Davis said.
A proposal analysis team, a group of people who have experience with agencies that serve domestic violence victims, evaluates the applications in four categories: housing, prevention, counseling and advocacy. Each category requires its own application and eligible organizations can submit applications in all four categories.
The team seeks to be "objective and discerning" in the application evaluation process, adding that collaboration and partnership opportunities are key to ending domestic violence in Prince George's County, Davis said.
"We know by ourselves, we can't take care of this problem, and we know the government and police aren't the answer," Davis said. "We know that our nonprofits and our people in our community coming together to create solutions to situations is the way to go, and that's what we seek to do."
DeMatha Catholic High School, which qualifies as a nonprofit organization due to its tax exempt status, was awarded $40,000 last year in the prevention category. The all-boys school is "known for athletics," said Maureen McCart, the school's advancement officer, adding that the school's initial focus is educating athletes and coaches in the county about domestic violence.
"We felt that athletes were kind of a contained group," McCart said. "The grant gave us a place to start and we aren't necessarily targeting athletes as a problem, but just as a group to start with to promote this education."
The school is hosting a domestic violence summit on Oct. 9 for local athletic teams and coaches, where officials will present information about domestic violence and illegal harassment.
"We feel that we have a good basis and foundation here to create some positive good, and based on DeMatha's reputation, our access to people in Prince George's County, and our connections, we hope this can be a very successful project," McCart said.
The University of Maryland has several resources to aid in domestic violence prevention, such as individual and group therapy at the Counseling Center and the Campus Advocates Respond and Educate to Stop Violence organization at the Health Center, which is affiliated with the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.
Society needs cultural and attitudinal changes toward healthy relationships to address the issue of domestic violence, said Noah Collins, associate director of this university's Counseling Center.
"The vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are men, so changing the culture of masculinity, dealing with anger, and unlearning misogyny are very important if we're really going to change things," Collins said. Two percent of women are victimized or assaulted by another woman, meaning the rest of the perpetrators are men, according to the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
"There are a lot of folks who don't get help in making that sort of attitude adjustment, and then the larger culture helps to reify misogyny and the idea that this world is for men and women are for men. Challenges to that are met with frustration, backlash, and anger." A critical component of prevention efforts is "getting underneath what's at the behavior and the stuff people say to each other in a relationship," he said.
The application period to receive a grant ended on Sept. 6, and the council will announce this year's awardees in October.