Attorney General Releases Eighth Annual Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel Report

January 28, 2010

Attorney General Janet T. Mills made the following comments at a press conference on January 28, 2010:

We are here to release the eighth annual report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel. There are several recommendations from this report that I would like to highlight for you today.

First and foremost, this report is about working to prevent another domestic abuse homicide. One of the most practical recommendations outlined is this report is to let victims know that they should never return to the house of their abuser alone. Three of the seventeeen cases reviewed were cases in which a victim returned to the residence/household to retrieve personal or their children?s belongings without police escort. These victims killed when they returned to the home of their abuser.

Our most important advice to persons leaving any relationship is: Don?t go back alone, always ask for police escort/assistance. Our advice to every police officer is to take these requests for assistance very seriously; help whenever you can. It will make a difference. You will save lives.

Secondly, this report notes that domestic abuse also includes intrafamilial violence and violence between parents and children. These situations can be prevented by adhering to medication plans prescribed by medical professionals. Our message to families, educators, and mental health professionals is: Take threats or talk of suicide and threats of violence very seriously. Threats can escalate into violence against themselves and family members, and result in homicides that may have been prevented.

Thirdly, I believe we are making progress to put protections into place for people seeking protection from abusive relationships. The Protection from Abuse (PFA) process has indeed saved lives. Few if any of the murders examined in this report occurred while a protection from abuse order was in effect. This tells me that, most likely, protection orders are working.

But the PFA process is perhaps underutilized. We must continue to work to educate victims in abusive relationships that PFAs are available and can help protect them from a situation that could become even more violent and deadly.

Lastly, the presence of children at scenes of domestic homicide is disturbing. In the cases reviewed by the panel, fourteen minor children lost a parent, or sometimes both parents, to DV homicides.

These children, no matter where they are, no matter how strong their other family or community ties are, no matter how resilient they seem, they need intensive professional and community help and understanding. Schools, counselors, extended family need to extend themselves to make sure these children receive therapy, kindness, patience and love.

For the rest of us, these acts of violence quickly become yesterday?s news. For these children, the trauma never leaves, the after-shocks last a lifetime.

Overall, the statistics on domestic violence are valid across county lines, across economic strata and all social circles.

While Maine still has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, domestic violence is an issue that remains one of the highest priorities to all of us in law enforcement and in social services in Maine. There were thirty one homicides in 2008, sixty-five per cent of them were family or relational abuse.

For nearly thirty years we?ve had in place a self-help remedy, protection from abuse orders. Yet an estimated 30,000 adults are victims of domestic violence in our state in one year alone.

We have tightened the criminal laws and broadened the scope of protection orders. We have instituted a mandatory arrest policy and broadened the prohibitions on possession of firearms.

What is it we?re not doing? I suggest that most of what we?ve done to date has been to put a band-aid on the problem, after it occurs.

We need to focus on prevention.

We need adult male role models for those children who have none?and there are many more than ever before.

We need men?those Nascar heroes, baseball luminaries, music and movie stars?to send the message to boys and young men in Maine, that ?heroes don?t hit;? that it?s cool to walk away; that the best way to get even is to ignore the person offending you and to find another outlet; to let off steam at the gym not in the kitchen; that anger is normal, but violence is not.

In recent years the office of the Attorney General has authorized sworn domestic violence investigators to cross jurisdictional lines in order to enforce bail conditions and protection order provisions. I believe we have saved hundreds of lives by taking this measure.

And we are taking a closer look at the long term impact of domestic violence on children in the household who grow up thinking that such behavior is the norm.

I would like to thank Margo Batsie and Lisa Marchese from the Attorney General's office, and the members of the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel, for their tireless work on this report. It is our hope that this information will prevent further domestic violence homicides. Our job will not be done until no one dies as a result of domestic abuse in Maine.

The report can be found online at: -end-