Prosecutor: Domestic Violence Investigations Evolved from Telling Victims 'Learn How to Be a Good Wife'

By Barber, Alex | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), September 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

Prosecutor: Domestic Violence Investigations Evolved from Telling Victims 'Learn How to Be a Good Wife'


Barber, Alex, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. To read the first part, visit http://bdn.to/lka1.

Motivated by the murder of Amy Lake and her children, Coty and Monica, by her estranged husband Steven Lake in June 2011, members of law enforcement and community assistance agencies in Dexter and nearby Dover-Foxcroft have formed a team aimed at avoiding such tragedies in the future.

Piscataquis County is not the first to form a high-risk response team. York County has had a similar team for 10 years and Cumberland County has had one for the past four years. Penobscot County started a task force in the northern part of the county this summer.

Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she recently received a grant so her county can have a team as well.

Much like Piscataquis County, Somerset has a major issue with domestic violence homicides. There have been nine domestic violence homicides there in the past eight years.

"Our goal is zero domestic violence homicides," Maloney said recently. "The intention around this team is to identify those cases with the greatest potential for a homicide."

According to the Department of Public Safety, a domestic violence homicide is a killing involving those living in the same household, direct relatives or those involved in a relationship.

If successful, Maloney said the Somerset County model will be implemented in northern Kennebec County and then the southern portion of the county.

Margo Batsie, member services coordinator for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said the organization will work diligently next year to help other counties start their own high-risk response teams with training and policy development.

"I've heard from every single county. They're either in very serious planning stages [of creating a high-risk response team] or it's on the top of their priority list," she said.

Maloney wants to avoid failures in Somerset County by ensuring nobody falls through cracks in the system.

To do that, the team in Somerset County will look at the victim's need for housing, substance abuse treatment and monitoring by law enforcement.

"We'll tackle the case from every single part of what's needed," said Maloney.

To help identify the most serious cases that may lead to a homicide, she said her team will use two identifying factors -- Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment, or ODARA, which looks at how many incidents the aggressor has had with police, and the Campbell Analysis, which tracks whether the rate and severity of the assaults has increased.

"When you combine them, we can be sure we're not having a case fall through the cracks because they look at domestic violence from two different viewpoints," said Maloney.

The greater the number of incidents, the higher number the person will receive with ODARA, which is used by law enforcement. By law, all police in the state must be trained to use ODARA by Jan. 1, 2015.

The Campbell Analysis is used by the Family Violence Project, a key member of the Somerset County response team.

"If the violence is increasing in severity, that's a huge danger sign," she said. "That means the person is becoming more and more comfortable with committing greater and greater acts of violence."

The abusers are usually violent in relationships throughout their lives, said Maloney.

Sarah, a woman who sought the help of the Piscataquis County Domestic Violence High Risk Response Team, dealt with fear, isolation and threats from her abuser. Sarah, who did want to use her real name, said she knew he wouldn't change.

"[I received] a lot of threats that you want to believe aren't true, but you know what you've been through already, so you don't want to take anything for granted," she said.

Sarah's abuser, who is now in jail, didn't start with her, Sarah said.

"He hurt others too. This is a long history of violence with him. …

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