Unmasking The Silence In Style
Family Crisis Center Announces New Facilities, Celebrates Victories In Fight Against Domestic Violence
By Raoul Dennis
A lone trumpeter, Emanuel Jackson, played soft notes into the night air as guests walked into the entrance of Newton White Mansion Oct. 25. The purple lighting, the green and purple beads, the thumping beats by DJ Louie and masquerade-style masks gave much more an atmosphere of a club at mardi gras than what the night truly was.
It was a celebration of the lives saved and improved in Prince George’s for over 30 years by the Family Crisis Center. It was a victory lap to the more than 200 families FCC aided in the past year alone and an announcement of the even greater services it will provide next year.
Interspersing her comments with compelling video, FCC’s Executive Director Sophie Ford invigorated guests with the announcement of a new $108,000 grant and expansion to a new office at the Iverson Mall. FCC also plans a marketing campaign in coming months to increase awareness of their availability and services.
“We will welcome people to receive emergency intake counseling, referrals for services and most importantly liaison with the police department’s domestic violence units,” Ford said of the new space.
Some 145 guests and VIPs filled the room for FCC’s Unmasking the Silence: A Night of Honor and Hope in sexy black skirts, cool cutting edge suits and daring evening dresses. An array of great food dishes were provided by Xquisite Catering. “We wanted to contribute to the 30th anniversary of domestic violence awareness month with an event that celebrated and honored comrades while underscoring the value of our voice and continued efforts (visibility) to address domestic violence,” Ford says.
FCC is a 501c3 non-profit organization established in 1981 to aid domestic violence victims in Prince George’s County. It provides counseling, education and support services to men, women and children. It is currently the only emergency shelter in Prince George’s. It holds 55 beds “but sometimes it turns to 57, 59 or 62 beds in what we deem the overflow area but that’s what it is,” Ford says. The center provides services for the perpetrators as well as the victims and operates in Spanish as well as English in effort to cater everyone who needs help.
FCC’s track record and effectiveness is solid. “In 2016, we served over 10,000 callers on our hotline and we kept over 200 families safe in our emergency shelter. We coordinated 40 law enforcement agencies across the county with the lethality assessment program,” Ford explains.
“People sometimes associate assistance from the government as something that you can only get if you are from a lower class income and we want folks to know that we have assistance for everyone no matter what your income level is keeping you comfortable and your family safe,” said Jackie Rhone, director of the Prince George’s Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Division at the Department of Family Services. “You can sit in your home in Mitchellville and send your kids to private school but we work to make sure you are safe. We want our residents to know that the services are here to support every household no matter the income level. So no matter where you live inside or outside the beltway from Fort Washington to Laurel resources are available. We want to “Break the Silence” and nurture a safe community.”
Demand for the center has grown in the three decades since it started. The county leads the state in homicides related to domestic violence. According to the FCC, Prince George’s only has one emergency shelter to provide emergency housing for victims fleeing abuse. The county also experiences high volumes of incidents, including fatalities, on Sundays. And the sources of the cases are not limited to working class families. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement and faith community residents have also been challenged with the issue.
FCC chose to open an expansion office in the southern part of the county based on critical need of greater incidents there.
“Many of our fatalities in the past year have originated from southern Prince George's county: Fort Washington, Oxon Hill and Clinton,” Ford says of what is being called FCC South. “So we will be strategically placed by metro. The beds won’t be there but the immediate access will be.”
Howard Stone Jr., a founder of FCC, was in attendance at the gala. He has seen it grow from a time when support in the fight to end domestic violence wasn’t popular.
“When we would go to churches back then for support most of the pastors didn’t even want to talk about domestic violence,” Stone says.
But the county’s veteran community voice decided that even though it wasn’t popular, it was important to pursue the effort to develop a shelter. “I knew that this was horrible and people needed housing when they had to leave their home. We saw that need and tried to create a place that would fulfill that need. It wasn’t a very popular subject.”
He says the gala is evidence of today’s openness about the issue and FCC’s success.
“The gala personified the growth and the mission in terms of combating Domestic Violence,” Stone asserts. “It has taken us 35 years to get to a fundraiser and public awareness. It was good people and good forces coming together to help us eradicate this problem. That shows you how far we have come because now pastors want to get involved themselves and I applaud their thinking now. There is nothing like having a church involved in something – that’s where the grass roots of our people are.”
David W. Smith Sr., Advocate and Community Engagement, Affairs & Multicultural Coordinator for the Prince George's County Office of Community Relations, was part of the organizing team for the gala.
“The Prince George's County Family Crisis Center Gala was truly an amazing event as we honored and gave hope to many survivors and advocates of domestic violence,” he said. “It was an honor and a pleasure to be among so many survivors and advocates all working together to stop domestic violence. FCC is one of the very few organizations that is on the ground doing the work in Prince George's County to provide assistance and support to stop domestic violence against all (women, men and children). The work behind FCC is to help make our families and communities safer. With more domestic violence education, prevention and awareness we can conquer this domestic violence and bring domestic peace within our communities.”
Prince George's County Council Chair Derrick Leon Davis (D-Dist 6) said that county leaders will continue to partner with groups like FCC in order to elevate the quality of life here.
"We know that the tragedies of domestic violence are all of ours to bear," Davis said. "We should have the resources to collectively take care of our brothers and sisters so that we can continue to be our brothers' and sisters' keepers. As long as we are working together, we will be that."
Local Organization Highlights Domestic Abuse
By Lauren Poteat
In an attempt to shed important light on Domestic Violence, the Family Crisis Center (FCC) of Prince George’s County recently held a candid seminar during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The Oct. 7 forum, entitled “Band of Brothers,” focused on domestic abuse, particularly with males, alongside its causes and its solutions.
“Domestic abuse is not solely a female issue,” Sophie Ford, executive director of the Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County said. “At this center we have served both hetero and same sex male relationships where the men have been the victims, so we know this is an ongoing problem.”
“Here at the center the conversations have pretty much centered around the same thing in that we really need to address the victims and advocate toward prevention. That is why we put together ‘A Band of Brothers.’”
Held at the Largo Center, Prince George’s Community College, the event marked the first year that the FCC had ever given the free conference, with hopes from many advocates that the program would become an annual investment.
“I am a big advocate for this cause, so when I heard about the FCC bringing together a group of men to help bring about awareness and understanding, I knew I had to help out,” David Smith, Prince George’s County community engagement and affairs, multicultural coordinator said.
“In Prince George’s County statistics show that men are 100 percent the perpetrators in domestic violence, but those statistics are a little vague. A lot of men who are victims don’t say anything because of the stereotypes society has put on them to be strong and self-sufficient. That is why it’s important that we get together to talk about these issues and get the word out.”