Domestic-violence-related news from around Maine
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With that in mind, here is some DV-related news from around Maine.
At the scene
READ: Deirdre Fulton's "Stopping abuse"
READ: Deb Landry's "Burning Bridges," a first-person perspective on domestic violence from interview subject "Michelle"
Police officers in Saco are using a new assessment tool, ODARA (its namesake is the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment), that helps officers on the scene identify immediately whether or not the alleged perpetrator is at risk of re-offending. Domestic violence calls and arrests have steadily increased in Saco over the past five years. “We found ourselves coming up short,” Deputy Chief Charles Labonte said of the Saco Police Department’s previous DV assessment tools. Charged with finding a better “risk assessment matrix,” Labonte was told about ODARA, which was developed by the Ontario police department and that province’s Ministry of Health as the “first empirically tested and validated domestic violence risk assessment tool to assess risk of future wife assault, as well as the frequency and severity of these assaults.” The Saco PD is the first in the state to have its entire department trained to use the 13-question procedure when they arrive at the scene; the baseline ODARA scores will help set bail conditions moving forward, and hopefully reduce recidivism and escalation among abusers.
Jill Barkley, public awareness and policy coordinator at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, says a bill before Congress that’s ostensibly related to swine flu could also affect domestic-violence policy. The Healthy Families Act (HR.2460/S.1152) would require that employers with 15 or more staffers grant all workers the chance to earn at least seven paid sick days per year. While the bill was proposed to help stay the spread of the H1N1 virus, Barkley points out it contains a provision stating that paid sick days could be used by victims of domestic violence to accomplish “tasks that will make them safer, such as attending a court proceeding, meeting a locksmith to get the locks changed,” or filing for a protective order — important undertakings that sometimes don’t get done “because the loss of income is just something [the victim] can’t afford.” Both the MCEDV and the Maine Women’s Lobby have been working to support this legislation.
In the schools
The state Department of Education continues to evaluate the extent to which dating violence should be addressed in school, in terms of both prevention (i.e., curriculum) and protection (because minors may need special provisions for protective orders), as per a resolution put forth by Representative Joe Wagner (D-Lyman) earlier this year. By March 1, 2010, the DoE has to recommend specific prevention and protection mechanisms to the state legislature. If nothing else, Wagner says, the effort is helping by “raising consciousness, and getting school districts to do more than they might be doing.”
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