Victor Rivas Rivers might look familiar from playing a bad guy in various films and TV shows. But his stop in Baltimore next week has a very different motive; Rivers will be giving the keynote address at next Wednesday’s  Patricia and Arthur Modell Symposium on Domestic Violence, an annual gathering that examines the reach and impacts of abuse… and considers how it can be prevented.

The Modell Symposium is a chance for advocates, activists, and interested parties to get together to discuss domestic violence — its impact on families, strategies for combatting it, and ideas for how to prevent it. Hosted by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the event will explore innovative techniques for reaching women, families, students, and social workers.

The title of Rivers’ keynote speech, “A Private Family Matter,” gets at one way the conference hopes to inspire attendees — by making it clear that domestic violence is not a taboo subject, or something that’s none of anyone else’s business. As Carole Alexander, who will moderate Wednesday’s discussion, puts it,”I know this is an issue that people are quick to turn away from, and there’s no  pain free – I guarantee way to turn around our destruction of our families, relationships, and our children.  But we can prevent it and effectively intervene” — but only if we’re talking about it.

To that end, many local private schools are suspending classes so students can attend. The 2010 death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of her ex-boyfriend made many students and parents sit up and pay attention. Organizers hope that the conference will inspire young people to greater awareness of how domestic violence may affect their lives, and the lives of those around them.

Besides Rivers, speakers at the conference include Jay Perman, president of UMD; Richard Barth, dean of the School of Social Work; Maryland first lady/judge Catherine O’Malley, as well as representatives from the University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women; the Children’s National Medical Center in DC; and Second Chance Employment Services.

For more details about the conference program, and for information about how to reserve your spot, click here.