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Appendices - Excerpts From Speech Given By Attorney General Steven Rowe

Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Women’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, May 1999).

The 2000 census puts Maine’s adult population just over 950,000, and 51% of Maine citizens are women.  Applying the Commonwealth findings to the Maine population, this would mean approximately 161,000 Maine women will be physically or sexually abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

This figure is not hard to believe when you consider that domestic violence and sexual assault are the most underreported crimes in our society. Approximately 13,000 victims access services through local domestic violence projects each year.  Another 12,000 victims of sexual assault seek help via crisis centers.  Further, 50% of homicide victims in Maine were once intimate partners of their killers.

A study by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services concluded that domestic violence against adults costs our nation more than $67 billion each year.  It also concluded that, of the total costs to violence against children, 40%, or another $66 billion, is attributable to domestic violence.  That’s an annual cost of $133 billion nationally, and about $500 million in Maine.

These are the facts I talk about when I travel around the state talking about domestic violence and sexual assault.  Much of what I’ve said is driven by research done in these areas.

When I ask law makers to enact new laws or law enforcement officers to adopt new policies or corporations to take actions not mandated by law, the first question I’m asked is why.  I have to be able to paint a compelling picture, not just with my words, but with defensible facts and research.  I have to prove the case every single time I try to move policy a step further.  Thus, the work you are doing now and will do in the coming years will support policy changes of the next decade.

Researchers have the power to help lawmakers and policymakers in the state. I am excited that researchers are coming together today with practitioners and advocates to hear what research gaps need to be filled in order for us to effectively move policy forward.

I want to give you an idea of how helpful research in this area can be.

In 2003, I sponsored and helped enact legislation to allow the court to direct a defendant in a protection from abuse action not to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon for the duration of the temporary order if the complaint demonstrates a heightened risk of immediate abuse to the plaintiff or a minor child.  [19-A MRSA 4006(2-A).]

We drew upon research about lethality indicators to develop a comprehensive list of considerations the court should use to determine “heightened risk.” This list includes traditional risk indicators, but also includes killing or threatening to kill pets – a lethality indicator that has been proven through research.

Even with carefully crafted language, this legislation was not an easy sell. We relied heavily upon substantial national research as well as well-documented Maine statistics to convince various opponents that the legislation was necessary.  Here’s a sampling of the research we used.

Nearly one-third of all women murdered in the U.S. in 1998 were killed by a current or intimate partner, and guns were used in almost two-thirds of these domestic homicides. (Department of Public Safety)  (U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics; Homicide Trends in the U.S., Intimate Partner Homicide; 2001).

It was helpful for us to explain that 75% of domestic violence homicide victims are killed during or after they have left their relationship. [Hart. “National Estimates and Facts About Domestic Violence.” NCADV Voice 12 (Winter 1989).]

The PFA process is more often used not as a form of early intervention, but rather as a signal of desperation following extensive problems. (A.Harrell & D.E. Smith: “Effects of restraining orders on domestic violence victims”; in E.S. Buzawa & C.G. Buzawa, 1996, Do Arrests and Restraining Orders Work, Sage Publications, p. 231-240)

The presence of a gun dramatically increases the chance that a domestic violence incident will end in murder.  Family and intimate assaults involving guns are 12 times more likely to result in death than other family and intimate partner assaults. [Saltzman, L., Mercy, J., O’Carroll, P., Rosenberg, M., and Rhodes, P.  Weapon involvement and injury outcomes in family and intimate assaults. Journal of the American Medical Association 267(22): 3043-3047, 1992]

The issuance of a protection order was listed in the top situational antecedents to men killing their female intimate partners in a 1994 Florida mortality review report.  (Websdale, N., Sheeran, M., & Johnson, B., “Reviewing Domestic Violence Fatalities: Summarizing National Developments” for Minnesota Center Against Violence & Abuse, 2001)

Common sense often dictates a course of action for employers.  However, sometimes an employer has to understand why the employer should take an action that is not required by law and that might cost the employer time, energy and financial resources.  In order to help employers understand why they need to adopt workplace domestic violence policies, I have relied upon economic and statistical research related to the costs of domestic violence to the workplace.

Here’s some of the research data we’ve relied upon to demonstrate to employers that this is a problem worth their time, energy and resources.

71% of human resources and security personnel surveyed had an incident of domestic violence occurring on company property (Isaac, N., Corporate Sector Response to Domestic Violence, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University School of Public Health, 1997).

94% of corporate security directors rank domestic violence as a high security problem at their company (Soloman, C. “Talking Frankly about Domestic Violence,” Personnel Journal, April 1995).

74% of women reported that their abusive partner harassed them at work (FVPF, 2000)

Recent abuser and victim studies conducted by the Maine Department of Labor and Family Crisis Services have been useful in quantifying the problem of domestic violence in the workplace – particularly related to the scope of the problem and costs to the employer.

The survivor study found:

  • 98% reported that domestic abuse caused them to have difficulty concentrating on work tasks
  • 96% reported that domestic abuse affected their ability to perform their job duties
  • 94% were unaware of statutes that provide unemployment compensation to victims of domestic abuse, and 93% were unaware of Maine law that requires employers to provide time off to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking
  • 87% reported the abuser made harassing phone calls at work, with some survivors receiving between 50 – 100 phone calls per week
  • 83% reported the employer became aware of domestic abuse in employee’s life
  • 78% reported the abuser showed up at the workplace; 13% reported being assaulted at work
  • 78% reported being late to work as a result of domestic abuse
  • 77% reported they were prevented from getting to work on time because the abuser kept them up late or all night; 47% reported being assaulted before work
  • 60% reported losing their job due to domestic abuse (fired or quit)
  • 56% reported the workplace contact changed (increased in frequency or became more threatening) when the victim/survivor attempted to leave
  • 45% reported they were concerned they would get fired if they discussed domestic abuse situation with employer
  • 23% reported the abuser violated a protection from abuse order or other condition by contacting the victim/survivor at work
  • 5% reported their employer had a domestic violence policy in place

Here’s a research statistic that has been very compelling in our work to end elder abuse and exploitation:  victims of financial exploitation and abuse are three times more likely to die in the next decade than those in the same age group who are not victims.

Even with the small gains we’ve made in the state in the last few years, we need to continue to define the problem and use the information we gather to aid in prevention, intervention and treatment work.  Here are some research needs identified by people working in these areas in our office.

We need to know more about batterer treatment outcomes:  BIPS v. Anger Management.

What’s the scope of the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault in Maine?  Maine is in great need of a prevalence study.

How are firearms used in crimes of domestic and sexual abuse?

How does DV affect custody disputes and determinations?

How many seniors in Maine are affected by abuse and what are their needs? Our state is aging fast and we are not doing enough to keep up with it.  We estimate that possibly 10,000 elders are victims of abuse each year and that only a very small percentage of these cases are ever reported.  Elder abuse has unique dynamics and very little research has been done to capture the extent of the problem.

How many student victims of sexual assault leave school or commit suicide because of continued harassment by a student perpetrator or his friends?

Finally, we need to do more economics research to show that investing in prevention and intervention saves government the money spent on treating the end problem.  We need to fully understand how much of our annual general fund budget goes to address the fallout problems associated with domestic violence and sexual assault.  Only when we can prove that these issues are a substantial drain on our state’s economy will some people support early intervention and treatment programs.

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