ROCKVILLE, Md. — Cheryl Kravitz knows what it’s like to live in fear of a loved one. For eight years she says she was abused “systematically” by her then-husband.
The survivor of domestic violence recounted how a friend, who suspected Kravitz was being abused, showed up one night. “She and the police came to my door, and got me out of that house,” she recounted Monday as she joined Montgomery County officials to kick off a public education campaign detailing how and where women and men can find help to escape domestic violence.
Twenty-eight Ride On buses and 15 bus shelters are plastered with signs urging those suffering domestic abuse to call either the Abused Persons Program or the Family Justice Center for help. The buses include the phone numbers for both programs.
Every year, there are 5,000 calls for help related to domestic violence, according to Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Darren Popkin. And since 2009, he says the Family Justice Center has helped 9,000 families dealing with domestic abuse and violence.
Kravitz described living with abuse as like living in a “house of horrors.” She addressed victims of abuse who are still suffering. “We are on the other side of your house of horrors, we are here to help you.”
Debbie Feinstein, chair of the Special Victims Division of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, urged anyone who knows of a friend or relative who may be a victim of abuse to intervene. “Please reach out on their behalf. We can help you help them. Don’t be a bystander.”
Feinstein said the programs are free, and that help is also available for children who might also have been abused or who might have witnessed domestic violence in their home.
Feinstein said signs of domestic violence include wearing clothing to hide bruises or injuries, changes in routine, and changes in social interaction, like sudden isolation.
Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger also urged victims and their loved ones to get help. He said that immigration status is not something police will ask about. “We don’t ask victims about their immigration status. No matter what their fear is, we can help.”
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said that domestic violence happens everywhere “even in a place like Montgomery County.” Leggett said the programs offering help and support in Montgomery County are intended for anyone, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife or domestic partner.
County Council member Sidney Katz chairs the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and said he visited the Family Justice Center when he was first elected and was impressed with the scope of the assistance it gives. “It is truly a remarkable place” he said of the center, which provides counseling and housing assistance among other services.
For help, call the Montgomery County Family Justice Center at (240) 773-0444 or the Abused Persons Program at (240) 777-4673.
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