Program Spotlight: Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy

Jan 11th, 2021


The information in this profile comes from Laura Joyce, M.A, the Executive Director of SMCFA. I have served as the Director for 18 years.


1.     What makes the St. Mary's community special?


St. Mary’s is a unique mix of agricultural and technology: we are home to the Patuxent River Naval Air Base, which we know as PAX, and many technology firms and contractors that work hand in hand with the base. At the same time, being surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, we are also a water community, with a large water-based and farming economy. While some people outside of St. Mary’s County may have the impression that we’re a sleepy backwater, we actually have a large base of community activists and victim services providers providing progressive, state of the art services. Because we’re a fairly small community, the network of activists and providers is close, and includes a supportive, strong law enforcement partnership through the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department, our primary police force. Our provider-partners, including law enforcement, the Hospital, prosecutors, parole and probation, social services, the faith-based community, representatives from PAX, and others, led by the Center, meet bi-weekly, and have done so for nearly ten years now, to discuss services and develop strong support systems for victims. This multi-disciplinary Case Management Team is one of the unique and truly special aspects of the support and care provided to victim-survivors in St. Mary’s County.


2.     Tell us about the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy's current community sexual assault prevention efforts.


SMCFA took over sexual assault prevention services just over a year ago, in October of 2019. As part of those services, we provide 24/7/365 in-person response to the hospital in sexual assault cases. Our crisis counselors and a partnership with a private, licensed clinical provider, allow us to offer trauma-informed educational-crisis appointments, as well as longer-term therapy. Our staff attorneys are also available to advise St. Mary’s residents on legal issues related to cases. We work in concert with the local college, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, to provide advocates, training assistance and case support to students. We also work with the local school system on educational efforts. Prior to Covid, we were developing community-wide education and training opportunities; those are currently on hold due to limitations on group activities, but we are eager to get started on that aspect of our services as soon as restrictions are lifted. We also provide staff to chair the local Sexual Assault Response Team.


3.     Why are you a member of MCASA?

As we worked to ramp up services rapidly when we took over the sexual assault response, back in 2019, MCASA was absolutely critical to our success and our ability to ensure that there was no gap in services to St. Mary’s residents. From the in-depth and ongoing advice and support offered by Lisae Jordan and her staff to access to program documents and client information, being a member of MCASA ensured our success. During Covid, the providers’ virtual meetings hosted by MCASA have allowed us to share ideas, challenges and successes with our peers across the State of Maryland.  


4.     What called you to your work and led your agency to agree to be the local sexual assault program?

For me (Laura) personally, I have long been concerned that victims of sexual violence, whether in the context of domestic violence, as child sexual abuse, as sex trafficking, or as the trauma of nonconsensual sex or rape outside of relationships, require advocates who can ensure that they receive specialized, trauma-informed services. We were excited to have the opportunity to bring our commitment and expertise to bear to address these issues in our local community.   


5.     MCASA prioritizes advocating funding for rape crisis centers. With the rise of the #MeToo movement why is funding for rape crisis centers important? How has the COVID crisis affected the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy? 


#MeToo has been a powerful cultural movement and has given many victims a platform from which to share their experiences and receive healing and support, while educating those who have not experienced or do not understand sexual assault. It is also essential that there be accessible, trained, trauma-informed services for victim-survivors. Despite Covid, and despite many of the Center’s services continuing to be provided on a virtual basis, we have continued to provide an in-person response to the hospital and have also continued to be sure that victims are receiving the trauma services they need, through our staff and through our private therapy partnership.  

Visit the Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy website here to learn more!

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