County Council unanimously approves creation of Domestic Violence Coordinating Council


FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — “The amount of stress that everybody, that all of us, are experiencing right now is a ticket towards violence,” warns Inga James amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

James is the president of non-profit Heartly House, which supports survivors of domestic abuse. According to James, one in three women suffer some sort of violence, including verbal, financial and emotional abuse. One in five victims are men. 

Recently, James says, calls for help to the non profit have included severe attacks.

“Injuries are so much worse,” says James, “Strangulation, broken bones, burns, all kinds of stuff, so much more serious.”

And while the number of calls to Hearty House has decreased, James suspects it’s not victims are no longer at risk during the pandemic.

“The assumption being that [victims are] not safe. They can’t talk,” James explains,  “Either they’re not safe physically because their abuser is in the house, or they’re not safe emotionally and they can’t find a quiet place to talk.”

Recently, the Frederick County Council unanimously passed a bill to create a countywide Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.

The goal is to gather several professionals from different angles of the issue, from county judges and state’s attorneys, to forensic nurses, behavioral health experts and non-profit leaders in the field.

“We have to have a lot of people at the table if we’re really going to talk about the root causes and how are we responding to these incidents, how are we doing prevention,” explained Council member Jessica Fitzwater.

Fitzwater explains the idea for the council came to her from Frederick County Assistant State’s Attorney, Brett Engler. Engler is a part of the family violence division and during a July workshop she stated that the county state’s attorney’s office encounters about 600 domestic violence cases a year. 

“And as everyone can imagine, if you don’t work in this field, domestic violence is one of the under-reported crimes in the world, and in America as well,” Engler said.

The council is set to meet quarterly to review the scope of the issue and facilitate community-wide responses, focused on victim recovery, to domestic violence.

“The sooner we can get to work and get some of this collaboration going and really get into those deep conversations about what these different agencies are seeing and where the gaps might be and some of that coordination is going to benefit Frederick County,” Fitzwater says. 

The bill will go into effect 60 days after being approved and signed by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner.

Fitzwater says plans are to host virtual meetings. 

For more information on Heartly House, visit

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