About half of all homicides in Maine are caused by domestic violence, a trend in the state that has held steady for a decade and remains higher than the national average, according to a report released Thursday.

Of the 46 people who were victims of homicide in 2014 and 2015, the two most recent years included in the biennial study, 24 died at the hands of an intimate partner or family member, according to the report by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel.

Gov. Paul LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills held a joint news conference at the State House in Augusta to call for more work to prevent domestic violence and protect victims, and highlighted the impact on children.

“In my cases, extended family members are thrust into the position of raising survivors of domestic violence homicide,” Mills said. “Aunts, uncles grandparents, neighbors, older siblings are raising these children out of a wilderness of violence, out of a forest of fear, the darkness of death and loss.”

LePage, who survived domestic violence as a child, said he would suggest to the Legislature new laws that would require people bailed out of jail on domestic violence charges and those who violate protection from abuse orders to wear GPS monitoring bracelets.

“Our job is to keep victims alive so they can get through the process of the judiciary, and we can do a much better job at it,” the governor said.


The report is the 11th such review released by the panel since 1997, when state lawmakers required the study of domestic violence killings.

Each report reviews cases for which the court process or police investigations have been completed. Some domestic violence homicides that occurred in 2014 and 2015 were not included in the report because those cases are pending in court.


Maine’s recent domestic violence homicide rate is significantly higher than the national average. According to statistics collected by the Department of Justice between 1980 and 2008, the most recent data available, nearly 30 percent of all murders in the United States were perpetrated by a spouse, family member or significant other.

Non-fatal domestic violence assault also is more prevalent in Maine than in the rest of the nation as a whole. Of the 10,944 reported assaults in Maine during 2014, 5,067 were domestic violence-related, or 46 percent.

The panel’s report noted some common factors among the cases:


• The most dangerous time for a victim is when ending an intimate relationship. Perpetrators may not recognize as legitimate the choice of their partner to end a relationship, resulting in stalking, abuse, assault or homicide.

• A single training session on domestic violence response for professionals who work with victims is rarely enough. Periodic retrainings, as well as the creation of dedicated positions to address domestic violence within organizations, enhance victim safety and abuser accountability.

• Despite laws requiring health providers and hospitals to screen for domestic violence, in the medical records reviewed in the 16 cases analyzed, there is little to no documentation that screening of victims or offenders took place.


To compile the findings, a panel of behavioral health experts, researchers and prosecutors meets monthly to sift through a selection of cases for analysis. This year’s report encompasses 16 closed cases spanning domestic violence crimes that occurred between 2011 and 2015 and involved 19 victims. One case was a serious-injury domestic violence assault; the remaining 15 were homicides.

One of the members of the review panel, Francine Garland Stark, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, emphasized that abusers instill a deep sense of fear in their victims.


“I think part of what is so difficult, and has historically been so difficult, is for victims of domestic violence to communicate how afraid they are and how violent this person has been when no one’s watching,” Stark said. “I think we have a tendency as a society as a whole to minimize this type of violence when we should be responding with a heightened level of concern.”

Of the total number of victims in the cases reviewed, 12 were women; seven were men. Fourteen of the perpetrators were men.

Of the 16 cases, nine involved the use of firearms, and two involved knives. Four of the deaths were attributed to blunt-force trauma, and one death was the result of strangulation.

In eight of the 16 cases reviewed, either the victim, the perpetrator, or both had sought or were receiving behavioral health counseling. In seven cases, the victims had told family, friends or co-workers about abusive behavior.

In Cumberland County each year, prosecutors review about 1,000 cases of suspected domestic violence. They typically bring charges in roughly 55 percent to 60 percent of the cases, Assistant District Attorney Anne Berlind said.


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