United States: State protection available to victims of domestic violence
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||22 September 2004|
|Citation / Document Symbol||USA42983.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, United States: State protection available to victims of domestic violence, 22 September 2004, USA42983.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/42df61c129.html [accessed 21 May 2013]|
According to Maine-based federal attorney Paula Silsby, domestic violence is the state's "consistent violent crime problem" (Bangor News 29 June 2004). Of the 280 homicides that took place in Maine between 1990 and 2002, 49 per cent were related to domestic violence (Maine June 2003, 10). Furthermore, whereas the state's violent crime rate exhibited a slight decrease between 1995 and 2001, the number of reported domestic violence cases increased over the same period (ibid. 2003a, 6).
Victims of domestic violence living in Maine enjoy access to a variety of protection measures, services and resources, provided either by state agencies or by non-governmental organizations (MCEDV n.d.; Family Violence Project n.d.; Maine State Bar Association Oct. 1998, 1; Maine 2003b).
At a legislative level, Chapter 101 of Title 19-A of the Maine Revised Statutes provides a framework for the protection of victims and enforcement of sanctions against perpetrators of domestic violence (Maine 1995). Among other provisions, the chapter gives district courts the power to grant restraining orders, under the "protection from abuse" (PFA) laws, that bar the perpetrator from approaching the victim or engaging in abusive behaviour (Maine 1995; Maine State Bar Association Oct. 1998, 1). Such orders may be granted on an emergency basis and take effect as soon as the perpetrator has been formally notified (ibid., 1-2). A full hearing must be held within 21 days from the date of the original order, at which time a judge may extend the order for up to two years (ibid., 2, 4). According to the Portland Press Herald, 6,000 protection from abuse orders are granted each year in Maine (16 Sept. 2004).
In addition to seeking a PFA order, victims may request the assistance of police, who are "bound by law to 'use all means within reason' to prevent domestic abuse" (Maine State Bar Association Oct. 1998, 4). Such assistance can include the provision of transportation to a shelter or, if a recent assault is suspected, the immediate arrest of the perpetrator and filing of charges against him or her (ibid., 5). Furthermore, in instances where officers do not immediately detain the perpetrator, the victim can register a criminal complaint in person at a police station or through a local district attorney (ibid.).
In an attempt to improve the legal system's response to domestic violence cases, the District Court obtained federal funding to launch its Domestic Violence Coordination Project in a number of courts in York and Cumberland Counties, the latter of which includes the City of Portland (Maine 2003b). The project comprises
[c]oordination of information about other court cases (criminal, divorce, family) that involve the same people; [i]ncreased judicial monitoring of the offenders' compliance with court orders; and [t]raining and improved practices for judges, clerks, prosecutors, bail commissioners, law enforcement, victim services, probation officers, and others (ibid).
According to Joyce Wheeler, a judge in York County, the initiative has allowed judges and court personnel to spend more time on each case, and has improved the coordination of court orders (Bangor Daily News 16 Sept. 2004). However, expansion of the project to district courts throughout Maine has been hampered by a budgetary shortfall at the state level (Press Herald 16 Sept. 2004).
Other state-level initiatives include participation by the State of Maine Attorney General in a number of policy committees dealing with domestic violence-related issues, along with involvement in the delivery of public service announcements directed at young adults who have been subjected to dating or domestic violence (Maine n.d.). Furthermore, the Portland police has created a "pocket-sized card with tips and references for anyone who is in an abusive situation" (Portland Police Department n.d.).
The federal attorney's office in Maine has also taken steps to combat domestic violence in the state by making use of federal legislation that prohibits firearm possession among those found guilty of misdemeanour charges or subject to a PFA order (Bangor Daily News 29 June 2004). By using this legislation to target perpetrators of domestic violence, the office has reportedly "prosecuted more domestic violence offenders on firearms charges in the life of the [three-year-old Safe Neighborhoods] program than almost any other district" in the country (ibid.).
Additionally, non-governmental organizations provide a range of services and resources to domestic violence victims (MCEDV n.d.; AWAP n.d.; Caring Unlimited n.d.). Examples follow.
Victims can obtain assistance by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline, as well as hotlines established by such local organizations as the Abused Women's Advocacy Project (AWAP), serving Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin Counties, Caring Unlimited, serving York County, Family Crisis Services, serving Cumberland and Sagadahoc Counties, the Family Violence Project, serving Kennebec and Somerset Counties, New Hope for Women, serving Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties, Peaceful Choices, serving Washington County, Spruce Run, serving Penobscot County, The Next Step, serving Hancock County, and Womancare, serving Piscataquis County (MCEDV n.d).
Emergency shelters for domestic violence victims are operated by the Family Violence Project, Family Crisis Services, Caring Unlimited and the AWAP, the latter of which also offers transitional housing for victims with substance abuse or mental health problems (AWAP n.d.; Caring Unlimited n.d.; Family Violence Project n.d.; Family Crisis Services n.d.).
Caring Unlimited, the Family Violence Project and AWAP also run victim support groups as well as providing legal advocacy services (AWAP n.d.; Caring Unlimited n.d.; Family Violence Project n.d.). Furthermore, legal help is available from the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Pine Tree Legal Assistance and Legal Services for the Elderly (MCEDV n.d.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection.
Abused Women's Advocacy Project [Auburn, Maine]. n.d. "Our Services."
Bangor Daily News. 16 Sept. 2004. Renee Ordway. "Costs Strap Response to Domestic Violence."
_____. 29 June 2004. Judy Harrison. "Domestic Abuse Targeted by Gun Laws."
Caring Unlimited [Sanford, Maine]. n.d "CU Programs and Services."
Family Crisis Services [Portland]. n.d. "Emergency Shelters."
Family Violence Project [Augusta, Maine]. n.d. "Programs of the Family Violence Project."
Maine. June 2003. Department of Public Safety. 2002 Annual Report.
_____. 2003a. Justice Assistance Council. STOP (Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Program 2003-2005 Implementation Plan.
_____. 2003b. Judicial Branch. 2003 Report of the Judicial Branch.
_____. 1995. Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Title 19-A: Domestic Relations (Heading: PL 1995, c. 694, Pt. B, @2 (new); Pt. E, @2 (aff).
_____. n.d. Attorney General. "Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse."
Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV). n.d. "Maine Domestic Violence Projects."
Maine State Bar Association. October 1998. Domestic Abuse.
Portland Police Department. n.d. "Domestic Violence Information."
Press Herald [Portland]. 16 September 2004. David Hench. "Judges: Speedy Records Critical."