Conference Report - Synopsis
On November 18, 2005, practitioners, researchers, representatives from state agencies, and policy makers met on the University of Maine campus for a daylong conference on research on sexual assault and domestic violence in Maine.
Sexual abuse and domestic violence cause harm to families and communities and also burden Maine’s economy. Crimes of sexual abuse and domestic violence consume a significant amount of the State’s criminal justice resources. According to Maine’s Uniform Crime Report in 2002 law enforcement agencies reported 4,598 instances of domestic violence; in 2003 this number increased 11.4% to 5,364. This means that in 2003 almost half of all reported assaults (45.8%) were classified as occurring between household or family members. Homicide statistics over the past years indicate that almost half of each year’s homicides in Maine are linked to domestic violence.
Domestic abuse offenders are costly to Maine employers in terms of workplace safety and lost productivity. A 2003 pilot study by the Maine Department of Labor and Family Crisis Services estimates that almost 4 out of 5 male domestic abuse offenders use workplace resources to harass their victims. National U.S. estimates from the mid-1990s have put the cost of domestic violence at $67 billion per year, and the costs of rape at an additional $127 billion per year. Similar estimate exist for other countries.
The conference had several goals:
- Strengthen partnerships between researchers, practitioners and policy makers;
- Facilitate the assessment of research needs by considering the existing evidence and gaps in knowledge;
- Help prioritize research needs;
- Generate a collaborative action plan to increase the knowledge base that informs local services and statewide policy in Maine; and
- Serve as kick-off for development of regular meetings between practitioners, policy makers, and researchers.
The almost 100 conference participants represented diverse perspectives on research, practice, and policy. Two keynote speakers, Vera Mouradian (Wellesley Centers for Women) and Sarah Deer (Tribal Law & Policy Institute), started the conference with presentations on researcher-practitioner collaboration and on violence against women in tribal communities. Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe delivered a luncheon address on the importance of research for the development of good policy to intervene in domestic violence and sexual assault.
Morning and afternoon of the conference were organized into interdisciplinary breakout groups on prevention, offender accountability, victim services, and tribal matters. The breakout groups generated five large areas of topics and research concerns that a research agenda for Maine needs to address. The areas are prevalence studies, research on vulnerability and risk factors, social ecology studies, evaluation of prevention and intervention programs, and research on offender accountability (See page 14 of this report).
Evaluations from participants indicated that the conference served its purpose of galvanizing Maine’s diverse communities of practitioners, researchers and policy-makers. Participants appreciated the opportunity to share experiences and develop research ideas and found it helpful to convene practitioners and academics at the same forum. Networking with others in the field decreased a sense of isolation. The tribal breakout sessions generated ideas for future tribal collaboration.
There was widespread agreement that the conference generated useful momentum for the field and that a follow up conference would be desirable. After the groundwork of the November 2005 conference, a follow up event should move beyond the initially needed sharing of needs and ideas to more focused events that can address specific research issues.