Domestic abuse linked to 43 percent of Maine homicides in 2018-19

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 6:30pm

    There were 18 domestic abuse homicide cases in Maine in 2018 and 2019, accounting for nearly 43 percent of the state’s homicides during that period, according to a report released by Attorney General Aaron Frey.

    That rate is unchanged from the last biennial report, which listed 16 homicides in 2016 and 2017 as domestic homicides, accounting for 43 percent of the homicides during that period.

    The victims ranged from 7 weeks to 78 years old, according to the April 28 report, compiled by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel. Five victims were younger than 11. About 64 percent of the victims were female.

    The most common method of homicide was a firearm, which eight people used to kill 10 victims and seriously injure one. The offenders ranged in age from 17 to 82 and were overwhelmingly male.

    Eleven offenders, all male, killed their intimate partners, including one female who died by suicide “after prolonged exposure to intimate partner violence,” according to the report.

    Francine Stark, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, in a press release said there’s “nearly always something to be done” when someone is aware of domestic abuse.In 14 of the 19 cases reviewed, family, friends and coworkers were aware of the abuse and tried to help, according to the report. 

    “A good first step is calling a community-based advocacy organization,” Stark said. “Your local Domestic Violence Resource Center is available 24/7 to talk with you about what is happening and help you think about next steps, resources and strategies to keep yourself and the person you are worried about safe.”

    Calls to domestic abuse survivors in 2020 increased 24 percent, likely due to heightened stress and increased barriers to resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence told The Maine Monitor in March

    The report also included a look at the last 20 years through 2019, when there were 202 domestic abuse homicide victims, accounting for 48 percent of all homicides in Maine.

    “Overall, and consistent with national data, males committed the majority of domestic abuse homicides, and the majority used firearms,” according to the report.

    The panel’s recommendations include expanding the community response to domestic violence by strengthening relationships between justice systems, advocacy organizations, schools and government agencies.

    “One desired outcome is a strong mutual understanding of the roles of various agencies and systems,” the report said. “Another outcome is an overall higher understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse and violence, that results in less successful manipulation of systems by perpetrators who consistently seek collusion from others.”

    Gov. Janet Mills, during a press conference last week to unveil the report, described her own experience in an abusive relationship, including a night when a man held a gun to her head.

    “I will never forget that night, and I will always know I was one of the lucky ones,” Mills said. “Many, many others were not so lucky.”