For Immediate Release - June 05, 2008

Patrick-Murray Administration Highlights Innovative Approaches to Addressing Domestic Violence

State to Issue Public Health Advisory, Boost Law Enforcement Training and Conduct Trend Analysis on Domestic Violence Related Deaths

BOSTON - Thursday, June 5, 2008 - Continuing an administration-wide commitment to combating domestic violence, Governor Deval Patrick today directed the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to issue a Public Health Advisory on domestic violence. In addition, he highlighted two public safety initiatives underway to help address domestic violence: strengthening training around domestic violence and sex crime for police officers at all levels and reviewing data from domestic violence homicides in the last three years to assemble a trend analysis.

"We feel the impacts of domestic violence everywhere - on families, in our communities and in social services throughout the Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick. "While we have made progress in this area, there is still much to do. We must continue to work together in state government and with family members, friends and neighbors to put an end to domestic violence."

"It is critical that we continue our commitment to address sexual assault and domestic violence in Massachusetts," said Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, who chairs the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence.

"The initiatives announced today will allow help all of us in our efforts to prevent and address domestic violence."

Public health advisories are tools reserved for communicating urgent information to the public on critical health issues facing the community. Such advisories define the scope of the problem and provide important information on prevention and treatment. (See attached advisory). DPH will expand its effort to work with community-based domestic violence agencies to train every health care provider across Massachusetts to incorporate domestic violence screenings into their current practices.

"Today's announcements reflect the Patrick Administration's commitment to addressing the epidemic of domestic violence," said Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "No single state agency can meet the needs of all victims and children. We need community engagement to prevent and address domestic and sexual violence. Coordination is crucial to assuring that our policies and resources are most effective in preventing harm to individuals, families, and communities."

Governor Patrick also announced two innovative efforts underway, based in part on recommendations from the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence, to address the recent increase in domestic violence incidents. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security is continuing its work to enhance law enforcement response to domestic violence and sexual assault incidents by standardizing trainings for recruits and veteran officers and incorporating a coordinated community response model within the training curricula.

"The numbers of domestic violence victims are startling. One death is unacceptable, but 18 so far this year are truly disturbing," said Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke. "We've begun a process to review and analyze domestic violence deaths with the intent to recognize trends that help law enforcement help potential victims."

Police departments throughout Massachusetts will enhance their response to domestic violence and sexual assault incidents by strengthening training around domestic violence and sex crime for police officers at all levels - for recruits, veteran officers and those seeking advanced training - and then incorporating it into all Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) police training academies and in-service veteran officer training. Second, developing a domestic violence and sexual assault training curriculum for veteran officers and incorporating it into the annual MPTC in-service veteran officer training.

Under the direction of Secretary Burke, along with the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association (MDAA), in collaboration with DPH and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the state will also review data from domestic violence homicides in the last three years to look for commonalities or trends. Together, representatives from these agencies and organizations will create a survey tool that will provide the Commonwealth with the necessary information to develop a trend analysis. The analysis will protect the confidentiality of the victims and preserve criminal investigations. EOPSS researchers, DPH epidemiologists, representatives from the MDAA and the Medical Examiner met this week to begin the process.

The number of domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts was nearly three times higher in 2007 than in 2005. According to statistics maintained by Jane Doe, Inc., there were 15 murders and four domestic violence-related suicides in 2005; 28 murders and three suicides in 2006; and 42 murders and 13 suicides in 2007. Additionally, a total of 31 children were directly impacted by domestic violence in 2007. Five children were killed, 13 orphaned, 11 lost their mother, and two lost their father.

In June 2007, Governor Patrick issued Executive Order 486 to create the Governor's Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, which Lt. Governor Timothy Murray chairs. The Executive Order tasks the council with specific projects, including creation of a guide for law enforcement agencies regarding adult sexual assault response, revision of the Commonwealth's law enforcement response guide for domestic violence, and an annual report to the Governor. In October 2007, the Governor issued Executive Order 491 to establish a police of zero tolerance for sexual assault and domestic violence.

There are many ways for the public to get involved to help identify and prevent domestic violence in their communities. First, the public can learn more about on what domestic violence is and how to stop it. There are many resources available including these websites:

Additionally, the public can call the SafeLink number (1-877-785-2020). Trained responders can offer the public advice about how to help someone who is being abused. They can also provide the name of a Batterer Intervention Program if an individual is concerned about someone's jealous, obsessive, controlling or abusive behavior. DPH Batterer Intervention Program Services can be reached at 617-624-5497.