Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, MSCFV served 417 victims of family violence and their 640 children.
Most clients experience abuse from their spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend. These relationships are often long-term, with one-third to two-thirds have lasted for more than 5 years. A significant number of victims (39 to 50 percent) have left their abusive partner at least once before. A specific abusive incident often prompts victims to seek help. More than half of victims contact MSCFV in response to a particular incident. Most victims (58.2%) victims received services from MSCFV for only one month. One-fourth was in contact with MSCFV for 3 months or more.
The typical MSCFV client is a Caucasian woman in her early thirties and with at least one child. Victims from Dorchester County are younger, with 42% less than 30 years old, and less likely to be employed than those from the other jurisdictions. In Queen Anne’s County repeat clients, those who have received MSCFV services in the past, are more common. Two-fifths of Queen Anne’s victims are repeat clients. In addition, they are also more educated, with 21% having at least some college education. Victims from Talbot County have slightly better economic situations. Fully half are employed, but still 21% have no income.
Most often MSCFV clients have been victimized emotionally and physically by their abusers. Two-fifths (Queen Anne’s) to three-fifths (Kent) of victims report feeling filled with fear and dread. The majority have been physically abused, with the highest rates among Dorchester and Kent County victims.
Most victims were new to the agency, although rates vary across county from 58% (Queen Anne’s) to 78% Dorchester County. MSCFV’s client population is racially diverse. Across the five counties, eleven to twenty-seven percent of clients are African-American. One out of ten clients is of Hispanic or Latino origin. Caroline and Talbot Counties have particularly high proportions of Hispanic clients. Most family violence victims have minor children. Typically clients have completed high school, but few have completed college. Victims often face significant challenges related to limited financial resources. Only about two-fifths are employed. One-fifth or one-third lack any source of income when they come to MSCFV.
In 2015, MSCFV provided services and resources for several hundred family violence victims and their children. Most are women who’ve been emotionally and physically abused by a spouse or boyfriend, and who are coming to MSCFV for the first time. They typically first contact the agency through the hotline. Most remain in contact with the agency for one to three months and utilize the full range of services. As expected, clients are staying longer with MSCFV under the new program model. Through services they receive, clients are able to transition from being a victim to a survivor as they receive the information and referrals they need, a safe place to talk about their situations, a deeper understanding of their situations, rights, and options, and the support they need to take the next step towards a life free of violence.
Clients also provided feedback on the services they received on the hotline and in ongoing counseling. Through the hotline, the vast majority of victims gained an understanding of the cycle of violence in their lives (86%), gained understanding of their rights and options (93%), and were prepared to take the next step towards ending the violence (91%).
Ongoing counseling sessions also helped victims achieve important outcomes. Victims say counseling was very helpful for providing information and resources they can use (84%) and for providing additional ways to plan for their safety (79%). Most importantly, all victims indicated that counseling was very helpful because it gives them a safe place to talk.
Helping victims navigate the legal system is one of the most critical services MSCFV provides. For clients in crisis, having a MSCFV advocate accompany them to a protective order hearing provides emotional support and information to help them understand their legal rights and options. A Legal Advocates accompanied victims at 199 protective order hearings during the most recent year. In the vast majority of hearings where MSCFV accompanies the victim, the protective order is granted.
In their time with MSCFV, clients utilize the wide variety of services, including the hotline, crisis counseling, on-going counseling, information & referral, and the array of legal services. Specific services are frequently used multiple times. In fact, on average, victims call the hotline 1 or 2 times, receive at least 8 general information/referrals and 2 legal information/referrals, and participate in several ongoing counseling sessions.
In the past year, MSCFV staff responded to 299 hotline calls from 252 family violence victims. Discussions in the calls primarily focus on information victims can use in their immediate crisis. Three-fourths involve safety planning and 88% cover MSCFV resources. While each call is unique, tailored to the victim’s needs, the most common pattern is discussion of safety planning, MSCFV resources and legal rights. Given the focus of the hotline calls, it’s not surprising to find that the vast majority of callers achieve positive outcomes. More than nine out of 10 callers plan to use the information provided, has a safety plan, understands her/his rights and options and is ready to take the next step in ending violence in his/her life.
According to the “Profile of Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence Clients” Ovwigho, February 2015, victims enter services with MSCFV after experiencing emotional and physical abuse. More than half are “filled with fear and dread”, the most extreme level of emotional abuse. Three out of four victims have been physically abused, with twenty-seven percent having serious injuries or lasting pain. Most (58.2%) victims received services from MSCFV for only one month. One-fourth was in contact with MSCFV for 3 months or more. In the course of the year, the typical MSCFV client receives: 1 hotline call, 1 crisis counseling session, 2 ongoing counseling sessions, 2 information & referrals, 1 advocate support service, 1 legal advocacy support service and 1 medical or legal accompaniment.
Law enforcement officers often encounter victims in crisis when they respond to domestic violence incidents. In Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties law enforcement agencies are trained to conduct a screening to determine of the victim is a high risk of lethal danger. They then contact MSCFV’s hotline to connect the victim with family violence services. In the most recent year, law enforcement conducted 301 lethality screenings. The victim was determined to be in “high danger” in 73% of the screenings. MSCFV responded to 140 calls related to lethality screenings. In 57 of these cases, the victim agreed to talk directly to the MSCFV advocate as well.