October 22, 2018
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Report urges Mainers to raise their voices against domestic violence

Jessica Potila | SJVT
Jessica Potila | SJVT
The family of murder victim Amy Theriault gathers in March 2017 in Amy's sister Pam Dubois' St. John home, from left, Scott Dubois, brother-in-law; Pam Dubois, sister; Carrie Theriault, sister; Barbara Theriault, mother; and Ricky Theriault, father. Members of the family spoke to lawmakers in Augusta later that month in support of a bill to impose a mandatory life sentence on anyone convicted of domestic violence homicide. Lawmakers amended the measure before unanimously passing it, however, to instead allow judges during sentencing to assign special weight to murders that result from an act of domestic violence.

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese

The latest report on domestic violence homicides in Maine urges the public to speak out against family violence.

Titled “Voices Against Violence,” the 75-page report also “celebrates individuals who have used their voices to speak out against domestic violence.”

“Too often we hear a person say that they wished they had called the police or wished they had provided support to a victim or wished they had used their voice for change,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who heads the review panel, said in the introduction to the report.

The report was released Tuesday during a media conference at the State House.

This year’s report again urged victims, family members, friends, bystanders and community members to report domestic abuse to law enforcement.

“We make this recommendation because the panel has reviewed cases when a voice to end abuse has made a difference between life and death,” the prosecutor said. “Voices truly matter.”

While the number of homicides in Maine remains low, about half of them are classified as domestic violence-related, the report found. Of the 24 homicides reported in 2017, 10 were domestic violence-related, according to Maine State Police statistics. So far this year, eight of the 17 homicides have been domestic violence-related.

“We need to change our attitude toward domestic violence,” said Attorney General Janet Mills, who is the Democratic candidate for governor. “The stigma of a victim’s role and responsibility can hinder their ability and willingness to report abuse, testify or leave a relationship. It is never the victim’s fault, and we each have a role in contributing to or helping to change public perception.”

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
Amy Theriault

In addition to panel members, Barbara and Ricky Theriault, the parents of Amy Theriault, who was killed by her intimate partner in St. Francis in 2014, read a poem written by their daughter and found after her murder. The last line of the poem is: “Because I am already dead.” The poem is included in the report.

A domestic violence assault is reported to law enforcement every hour and 52 minutes, according to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. Last year, nearly 14,000 people accessed the service of a domestic violence organization, Francine Stark, director of the coalition said Tuesday.

“When we fail to recognize and fail to believe the degree of the threat, we collude with the perpetrator,” Stark said.

The report borrowed the slogan the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses at airports, bus terminals and train stations — If you see something say something.

The report is issued every two years.

The Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel was created by the Legislature in 1997. It is a 25-member multidisciplinary group that meets monthly to engage in collaborative case reviews of domestic abuse-related homicides.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

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