Maine Attempts To Tighten Domestic Violence Laws

(NEWS CENTER) — According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, one criminal domestic violence assault case is reported every 94 minutes. In order to help stop repeat offenders and get victims the help they need, MCEDV began a statewide initiative to target repeat offenders and offer resources to their victims. It is called the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment tool or ODARA. The questionnaire includes thirteen questions which looks at key issues such as perpetrator threats, an offender’s substance abuse or criminal history, a victim’s fear or barriers to support or whether the victim was assaulted while pregnant.

The Justice Systems coordinator, Margo Batsie, with the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence said, “It is a recidivism tool so it is really aimed at seeing who already committed an assault and is likely to do it again in the future.”

Batsie helped train law enforcement agents across the state to prepare for the January 1,2015 launch.

“It gives law enforcement and the whole criminal justice system one additional tool to use. It is really helping us put our resources at those most high risk cases,” explained Batsie.

Maine is the first state to implement a system such as the ODARA assessment.

An offender can score anywhere from a 0 to 13. This score is used to decide how often a victim should be checked on, what bail conditions should be in place for the offender, and provide statistical evidence to the victim to show it is likely the offender will do it again.

Court office Tammy Girard with Saco Police explained, “It allows us to work in collaboration with all the stakeholders of a domestic violence case. When I go to the prosecutor’s office and say ‘I have this domestic violence case and this offender has scored a 9,’ they understand as well as I do, the risks that are involved in this case.”

The Saco Police department was one of the first departments to be trained on the system and put it into action a few years ago.

Girard, said, ” I am really excited that this is going to be a statewide mandate. We have had really good success with the ODARA just from the information it gives the victim. If nothing else, sharing that information with the victim and letting them know their risk is critical.”

The goal is to help educate victims of domestic violence about the resources available to them and provide them with the help they need to get out of their situation. In addition, it allows prosecutors to understand a person’s history and make sure repeat offenders do not go unnoticed.

Members of MCEDV understand this is just one step necessary to put an end to domestic violence. In order for a person to receive an ODARA score they need to be arrested and requires a victim to report the abuse.

According to MCEDV, there are many victims who do not seek help or report abuse.

There is help available through the statewide domestic violence help line at 1-866-834-HELP.

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