October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and prosecutors, victim advocates, community leaders and domestic violence victims have organized events to once again raise awareness of this crisis.
We have learned that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence or intimate partner violence are women. We also know that anyone can be a victim. Whether one is rich or poor, black or white, young or old, it's abundantly clear that race, ethnicity and privilege are not safeguards from an abusive partner.
In 2005, my Office commenced 3,879 new domestic violence prosecutions. In addition, there were 4,224 abuse prevention orders issued in the county last year.
But those numbers represent only a portion of the victims, because the devastating effects of domestic violence are far reaching, impacting innocent children and tearing families apart. And we know from talking with domestic violence advocates throughout the county that most domestic abuse goes unreported.
As the chief law enforcement officer for 34 cities and towns, I am committed to holding batterers accountable while providing critical support and referrals to victims and their families. Unfortunately, prosecution alone does not prevent violence from occurring, and victims often suffer in silence, in the prisons they call home, isolated and afraid to contact the authorities or reach out for help.
The first Legislative bill I filed, as District Attorney-Elect, was to double the potential prison sentence for batterers. We know that many of the defendants who commit acts of domestic violence are serial batterers, and often the current 2 ½ year term in the House of Correction is not sufficient. This legislation, which includes a provision to allow judges to sentence defendants to five years in state prison, represents another important step in providing enhanced protection for domestic violence victims.
In the last session of the Legislature, the bill was passed by the Massachusetts State Senate, and was progressing through the House of Representatives when the session expired. Rest assured that I will file this legislation once again. With allies such as Senators Frederick Berry and Steven Baddour, along with Representatives Steven Walsh, Barbara L'Italien and others, I am confident that this bill will become law during the next Legislative session.
As a community, we must all open our eyes to this insidious crime. Teachers must be alert to the signs of abuse, doctors and other medical professionals must ask the right questions about bruises and broken bones, clergy must respond to battered congregants in appropriate ways, and we as neighbors and friends, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, must break the silence to stop the abuse.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and indeed, in every month of every year, I hope you will join me by participating in local events to continue to raise awareness. And I also hope you will take action when you know someone is being abused. Working together, we can stop the cycle of abuse.