February 2022

Face to Face: Helping Survivors of Violence

February 28, 2022    |  

Just 55 days into the new year, on Feb. 24, the Baltimore Police Department had already received more than 3,700 reports of violent crime, including 102 shootings and 51 murders. That puts 2022 on track to become the deadliest year the city has seen since 1993.

That’s a terrible reality for the victims of homicide and their families, but living as the survivor of violent crime is also very difficult. For most, the crime itself is just the beginning. A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) study reports two-thirds of violent crime survivors suffered social, emotional, and physical problems as a result of their victimization, including “feelings of moderate to severe distress; significant problems with work or school, such as trouble with a boss, co-workers, or peers; or significant problems with family members or friends, including more arguments than before the victimization, and an inability to trust or be close to anyone.” Those are symptoms that may last for months or years and even lead to financial or legal trouble.

Sadly, the DOJ also says more than a third of the victims who were severely distressed did not report the crime to the police or receive any kind of assistance. And even among those who did report the crime, only about half received any help.

That lack of reporting is largely because most violent crime takes place in disadvantaged and underserved communities, where residents often fear the police or fear reprisals if they cooperate with them. They even fear losing their property, which may be taken as evidence after the report of a crime. Additionally, many of the victims are new or undocumented immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse disorders, or mental health disorders who are often not inclined or well-equipped to navigate the bureaucracy that faces anyone who reports a serious crime.

For three years, the Rebuild, Overcome, and Rise Center (ROAR), founded by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, has been helping survivors of violent crime in Baltimore keep from being revictimized as they try to get their lives back on track.

“There are lots of ways in which victims of crime are not served by the existing systems,” says Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald B. Tobin, JD. “You might need help with your housing. You might need help finding medical benefits because you’re injured, and you don’t know where to turn. You might need counseling and support.”

Joining University of Maryland, Baltimore President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, as the featured guest on the Feb. 24 edition of Virtual Face to Face with President Bruce Jarrell was the executive director of ROAR, Lydia C. Watts, JD, MPH. She has described the center as a sort of one-stop shop where crime survivors can access a wide array of services in a safe and comforting environment. What’s more, ROAR clients can get help even if they have not — for whatever reason — reported a crime to police. The ROAR team includes lawyers and social workers, even a registered nurse, and the center partners with dozens of service organizations around the city.

Last fall, ROAR was singled out for its accomplishments as Mayor Brandon Scott announced his intent to spend $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding on violence prevention efforts and victim services. On Feb. 15, the mayor and the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement unveiled the first recipients of that funding. Among them, ROAR will receive a $1.5 million multiyear contract to help continue its work.

Audience questions included topics such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the need for violence survivor services, the role police play after an incident, the challenges facing immigrants, non-English speakers, and unsheltered residents, and some of the success stories from ROAR’s work. Watch the entire discussion by accessing the link at the top of this page.