More than three dozen boards recently surrounded a room at a Prince George’s County church, each signed by men to pledge promises to never engage in any form of abuse and maintain relationships based on honesty, respect and a myriad of other characteristics.
In connection with Father’s Day, the county Department of Family Services asked residents to stop by The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights to sign a pledge to help end domestic violence.
According to a pledge card, men can list various ways to make the community safer by supporting survivors, mentoring and challenging peers to maintain a healthy relationship.
“When you write something down, it gives you an opportunity to own it. You are taking some thought to pledge and do better,” Jackie Rhone, division manager for mental health and disabilities in county’s Family Services Department, said Friday, June 14. “What we’re hoping is this will start the conversation of education, and men specifically, that when you know better, you do better.”
The county has domestic violence resources such as a Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center in Upper Marlboro, the 211 domestic violence hotline and legal services through the House of Ruth at courthouse locations in Upper Marlboro and Hyattsville.
But the state of Maryland still ranks as one of the highest in the nation where one in four women and one in seven men have experienced domestic violence.
According to the state court’s website, Prince George’s recorded the highest number of final protective and peace orders last month at 693. Out of those, Blacks accounted for 534, or 77 percent.
Although county police officials said crime has decreased, Tokeitha Wilson of District Heights maintains domestic violence is still prevalent in the county.
Wilson, a seven-year domestic violence survivor, asked those in attendance involved in a domestic violence situation to stand. Only Kathy McKnight, a five-year domestic violence survivor of Temple Hills, stood up.
“No man stood up, which is really hard to believe,” said Wilson of District Heights who runs a nonprofit organization called Gridiron Terminal. “For some reason, men are not always open to stand and say, ‘It was me who experienced abuse.’”
The room also went silent when Michael A. Jones, a sergeant with the Maryland State Police, talked about his childhood experience of witnessing his mother abused by his father, a minister.
Jones, himself now an ordained minister who also teaches cardio-kickboxing in Howard County, recalled at age 10 his father stopped the abuse when he handed him a note that said, “Dad stop hitting my mom. You’re scaring me.”
“When people see me, they don’t know what goes on behind the scenes mentally and physically.” Jones, 46, said. “I still get emotional about what happened to me as a child. You have to break that barrier and try to get through that wall. It’s an emotional connection. You have to open up.”
For more information on the county’s Family Services domestic violence pledge and other resources, go to princegeorgescountymd.gov.