We live in one of the safest states in the nation. In fact, in 2006, Maine had the second lowest violent crime rate in the country. As a result, the vast majority of Mainers feel safe in their communities. Sadly, while many people feel safe on the streets, far too many people, particularly women, do not feel safe, and are not safe, in their homes.
The 2006 Maine Crime Victimization Survey found that during the last 12 months, 3% of those surveyed said they were experiencing domestic violence. This means that on an annual basis, at least 30,000 adults may be victims of domestic violence in our state.
Sexual assault and stalking walk hand-in-hand with domestic violence. Consider that the same Survey found that the sexual victimization rate for adults in Maine is 1.4%. All of the victims were women and all of them knew their perpetrator prior to the assault. Nearly 12% of those surveyed said they were stalked in the past 12 months. 31% percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by the stalker.
When I use the term domestic violence, I am speaking of a pattern of coercive behavior involving threats or actual acts of violence between partners; in the vast majority of cases, the perpetrators are male and the victims are female. Abuse can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial.
Domestic violence knows no boundaries. You'll find domestic violence in mansions on the coast and in trailers deep in the Maine woods. It visits every church and synagogue, and is in every profession. It is oblivious to ethnicity, gender, age or sexual orientation.
As Maine's Attorney General, I see the devastation caused by domestic violence. Each year, over half of the homicides in Maine are domestic violence related. When an abuser kills, he rocks the foundation of family and community and leaves a trail of heartbreak that cannot be healed. What most of us do not realize is that even if domestic violence does not end in death or serious injury, it extracts a tremendous cost on our children, communities and economy.
Children exposed to domestic violence pay a high price. Exposure to violence can damage emotional and cognitive development. Chronic exposure can change the structure of the developing brain, particularly among children younger than three.
Children who grow up in homes with domestic violence are often distracted and can have learning and behavioral problems. Children who are exposed to abuse often repeat the pattern of abuse as adults. In fact, a young boy's exposure to his father abusing his mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violence behavior from one generation to the next.
Consider also that in 1996, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services estimates that domestic violence and sexual assault costs our nation $260 billion per year. (Read "Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look" report (PDF) from the Department of Justice.) Apportioning these costs on a per capita basis yields a total cost of $1.2 billion for our State. In today's economy, the cost would be more than 1.5 billion. While this may seem high, consider the costs of special education, mental health services, child protection services, law enforcement services, judicial and corrections costs, and the costs to employers for lost productivity.
Domestic violence affects the workplace as well. Domestic violence does not stay at home when victims and perpetrators go to work. Abusers target victims at their place of employment, having a negative impact on productivity and employee retention. A 2005 Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) survey found that 87% of victims were harassed by their abusers at work and nearly all victims had difficulty concentrating and performing job duties. A 2004 MDOL abuser survey found that 78% of abusers used workplace resources to harass victims. 21% of abusers contacted the victim at work in violation of a court order.
For far too long, we have kept the secret of domestic violence. We have looked the other way and turned up the television so that we would not have to get involved. It is time for each of us to realize that domestic violence affects us all and that we all must get involved if we are ever to break the cycle of violence.
Individually, we must take responsibility for our actions that contribute to a culture that supports men's violence against women. This culture of violence is enforced gender stereotypes and objectification of women. We must reject advertising that treats women as sex objects. We must speak out against a popular culture that glorifies violence against women in video games, song lyrics, and movies. We must raise our boys to respect women and offer them healthy relationship models.
Here are a few other ways that you can play a meaningful role in changing our culture of violence.
Establish a Workplace Domestic Violence Policy
Employers all across Maine are creating workplace domestic violence policies that support victims and address workplace abuse. The simple act of implementing a workplace domestic violence policy let's victims know that their jobs will be safe if they seek help. It also sends a powerful message to abusers that their actions will not be supported by their employer.
These policies do not ask supervisors to counsel victims. Instead, they require supervisors to refer victims to community resources and provide assistance in the workplace - changing phone numbers, providing escorts and offering time off to address the abuse. Each policy is tailored to the specific workplace and developed in partnership with the local domestic violence project.
In 2003, my office implemented a workplace domestic violence policy. The policy has made a positive difference in the lives of our employees. Ask today if your business has a workplace domestic violence policy. If it does not, contact your local domestic violence project to find out how to start the process. Also, please share these studies with your employer and let your employer know that the Department of Public Safety has a free on-line workplace domestic violence training tool.
- Impact of Domestic Offenders on Occupational Safety & Health: A Pilot Study (PDF)
- Domestic Violence Survivors at Work: How Perpetrators Impact Employment (PDF)
Find Unconventional Intervention Points
Abusers often control the daily actions of victims, making it difficult for them to access services. If we are to help victims access services, we must take advantage of intervention opportunities and fight the problem through unconventional means.
In 2006, my office partnered with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence to launch a new initiative called Cut Out Domestic Violence. A hair appointment offers a victim a rare opportunity to be outside of the control of the abuser. Clients form relationships with stylists and confide personal problems, including abuse. This program provides salon professionals with information about the dynamics of domestic violence and prepares them to become vital resources to victims. Professionals who have been trained now have the tools they need to initiate respectful conversations and to make referrals.
We must find other opportunities to initiate innovative outreach programs that bring informed help to victims in a safe, non-directive way. I challenge you to find these unconventional intervention points and to partner with domestic violence projects to put ideas into action.
Become a Mentor - Get Involved
We must change the culture in which our children live. Boys who do not witness violence still get bombarded with messages that being a man involves power and control over women. These messages, received through video games, songs, television and movies, often promote violence against women. Because these messages promote the wrong social norms, it has never been more important for men to speak out against them. We must offer young men another model - a model where women's voices are heard and honored, where power is shared and where men maintain their masculinity without violence.
There are many excellent mentoring programs in Maine that connect young men to positive male role models who have rejected traditional social norms of power and control. These mentors teach boys that they are more powerful when they work cooperatively with girls. There are also mentoring programs that focus on the healthy development of young women. I encourage you participate in these programs.
In 2007, I invited men from around the state to participate in a meeting called "A Call to Men." At this meeting, men grappled with how to dismantle our cultural systems that support men's violence against women. The purpose of the meeting was to spark local action in communities all over Maine. This has worked and there are groups of men meeting locally throughout Maine working to address the community constructs that support violence against women. To find out if there is a group near you, contact your local domestic violence project or sexual assault center.
Be a Good Neighbor
While elder abuse takes many forms, it is mostly domestic violence grown old. The vast majority of perpetrators who abuse seniors are family members or trusted care givers. Abusers use fear to control their victims. They play on seniors' fear of being alone or being institutionalized. Victims may be afraid or ashamed to seek help, or they may not want to see their family members punished. Seniors experiencing abuse often become isolated and helpless.
We can break the isolation by reaching out to seniors in our neighborhoods. We can look for changes in seniors' lives that might indicate serious problems. Has the person stopped going to the grocery store, to church or to social engagements? Are there signs of physical abuse? Has the senior's hygiene deteriorated? These changes are often the outward signs of a more serious problem.
If you suspect that a person is a victim of elder abuse, report it to your local law enforcement agency and to Maine's Office of Elder Services at 1-800-624-8404. Calls to these agencies can be confidential. The agencies can check on the person you are concerned about and take appropriate action to ensure the person's safety. Most law enforcement agencies in Maine have officers who are specially trained to work with senior victims. Victims will be treated with respect through this process and will have control in the process.
We have made significant progress in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault. We have strengthened laws to protect women, built shelters, criminalized violent behavior and required consistent law enforcement. Public attitudes have started to change, but we still have a long way to go. I urge you to work to help eliminate domestic and sexual violence in our communities.
Statewide Domestic and Sexual Abuse Activites
Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse: The Attorney General is a member of this statewide Commission. The Commission's statutory mission is to advise and assist the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government on issues related to domestic and sexual abuse. The commission makes recommendations on legislative and policy actions, including training for police officers, judges and prosecutors. (See the commission brochure (PDF))
Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel: This panel is established by the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse. It is chaired by an Assistant Attorney General, who is also a homicide prosecutor. The Panel reviews homicides cases where the victim has been killed by a family or household member. The Panel recommends methods of improving systems for protecting persons from domestic and sexual abuse, including modifications of laws, policies and procedures. The following reports are available:
Domestic Violence Prosecution Report
Each year, the Office of the Attorney General is required to issue a report on Domestic Violence Prosecutions in Maine. Click here to view the 2006 Report: Domestic Violence Prosecutions in Maine (link to report - is there a way to make it all one report instead of each district?)
Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner Program
The Office of the Attorney General runs the States Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program. The purpose of the SAFE Program is to provide forensic examiner training and technical assistance for members of the registered nursing and medical communities and outreach and education to Maine hospitals, law enforcement, prosecutors, and sexual assault centers. The SAFE Program offers participants hands on mock trial and experiential testimony training as well as simulation training. Because of this Program, victims of sexual assault who seek treatment at many Maine emergency departments receive special care that addresses both the emotional and physical treatment needs of the patient.
Maine Victim Compensation Program
There is a program in the Office of the Attorney General to reimburse innocent victims of violent crime, including domestic and sexual abuse, for some of the expenses and losses they suffer as a result of their crime related injuries. This is the Victims' Compensation Program (VCP). The VCP can help with such expenses as medical bills, counseling bills, lost wages, and new locks.
For victims of sexual assault, the costs of Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations are billed by hospitals directly to the VCP. Patients should not get charged for these examinations unless they have additional services, such as x-rays, during the examination. Sexual Assault victims may apply to the VCP if they have expenses or losses in addition to the costs of the forensic examination.
Crime victims or their family members can obtain application forms for this help from Victim Witness Programs, domestic violence projects, sexual assault and support centers and from the VCP.
- The 8th Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel (PDF, 526kb)
- 2008 DV Homicide Panel Report (PDF, 508kb)
2006 Report: Domestic Violence Prosecutions in Maine
The files below require the free Adobe Reader.
- Introduction (PDF, 108kb)
- Prosecutorial District One (PDF, 80kb)
- Prosecutorial District Two (PDF, 32kb)
- Prosecutorial District Three (PDF, 80kb)
- Prosecutorial District Four (PDF, 44kb)
- Prosecutorial District Five (PDF, 32kb)
- Prosecutorial District Six (PDF, 84kb)
- Prosecutorial District Seven (PDF, 28kb)
- Prosecutorial District Eight (PDF, 16kb)
- Domestic Violence Support Hotline: Statewide 24 hours; calls are automatically routed to the callers closest domestic violence project 1-866-834-HELP
- Local Domestic Violence Projects
- Sexual Assault Support Hotline: Statewide 24 hours; calls are automatically routed to caller's closest sexual assault crisis and support center 1-800-871-7741 or 1-888-458-5599 (TTY)
- Local Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Centers
- Stalking Resources: In Maine, both statewide hotlines provide 24 hour support to victims of stalking, whether or not domestic violence or sexual assault are involved. 1-800-871-7741 or 1-866-834-HELP
- Domestic Violence Legal Information
- Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: (207) 430-8334 (administrative calls only)
Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault: (207) 626-0034 (administrative calls only)
- Pine Tree Legal Assistance: Information provided on Maine's Protection From Abuse Process (includes forms)
- Maine Address Confidentiality Program: Allows victims to keep their physical address confidential
- Maine Victim Witness Advocates: Assisting victims of domestic violence through criminal proceedings
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
- National Stalking Resource Center: 1-800-FYI-CALL
- National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY
- ChooseRespect: Information for parents and teens about teen dating violence
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Family Violence Prevention Fund
- Statistics about abuse
- A Call to Men: Shifting social norms that define manhood in our culture
- Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP): Gender violence prevention education strategy