Maryland considers making violent offenders do more time if a child sees the crime

The boy hadn’t heard the 911 tape before. But on this day, as he sits at the dining room table in his family’s apartment, he tells his mother he’s ready. He’s 14 now, no longer a terrified 9-year-old, and he wants to hear what he told authorities the night he almost lost her. 

Reluctantly, she pushes play on her laptop. The sound of distant crying and shouting fills the room before a 911 operator ask his name and then, “What’s the problem?”
“This man is trying to kill my mommy,” a small voice replies.

“Does he have any weapons?”

“Yes, he has a knife,” the boy says and then shouts away from the receiver, “PLEASE! Don’t kill her!”

Erin Curtis walks out of the room. She can’t hear any more. Her 14-year-old can’t stop listening. Tears now flow down his face.

In coming weeks, Maryland lawmakers will decide on legislation that calls for increased penalties for violent crimes committed in front of children, part of what some victim advocates consider the latest phase in addressing the nation’s serious domestic violence problem. Advocates, child therapists and survivors like Curtis say if it is approved, Maryland’s new law would mark both a practical and symbolic victory, allowing families to feel safe from abusers longer and recognizing the invisible victims of domestic violence. It would acknowledge, they say, what they’ve seen firsthand: Children don’t have to be touched to be traumatized.

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