Murders Resulting from Domestic Violence Rise in Massachusetts

Murders Resulting from Domestic Violence Rise in Massachusetts
Massachusetts in the northeastern corner the US is among the more progressive states.
Apparently the pronounced liberalism has not meant much for family relationships. Domestic violence is increasing at an alarming rate.

A week ago, 39-year-old Robert McDermott shot dead his ex-girl-friend Elizabeth Cann, 44, and shot her two daughters before killing himself. Even a small dog in the Cann household was killed.

McDermott had been living at the home with Elizabeth Cann and her daughters during a turbulent eight-year relationship, according to a senior police official said. Cann had at one point filed a restraining order against McDermott that expired two years ago. “It was on and off again for some time,” a senior police official said of the relationship.

Cann’s murder was the 39th domestic violence-related death in Massachusetts this year, putting the state on track to set a grim 12-year milestone.

If the violence continues at its current pace, Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against domestic and sexual violence, estimates another 17 people will die before the end of year.

“It’s absolutely alarming to see the rates of homicides associated with domestic violence skyrocketing,” said State Representative, Peter J. Koutoujian, a Democrat.

He is on the board of directors at Refuge Education Advocacy Change in Waltham, a domestic violence service agency.

There are shelters in the state for those who seek to escape domestic violence, but it is always overflowing.

Newspaper reports on the depressing trend point to such issues as inadequate state funding of shelters set up those fleeing domestic violence, understaffed anti-domestic violence programs resulting from a chaotic funding arrangement and a criminal justice that leaves victims to fend for themselves.

A national victims’ advocacy group says conditions in Massachusetts are reaching the crisis level. Experts note that when the Elizabeth Stone House in Jamaica Plain shut down after a fire last month, the closure represented only the latest blow to the network of 32 emergency shelters in the state.

“As a matter of course, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to find open shelter beds in Massachusetts on a daily basis,” said Rose Pulliam, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, who spoke based on anecdoctal information from hotline operators.

The hotline has fielded 6,421 calls from the Bay State since January 2005.

“There are other states that certainly have a problem with bed availability that I do hear about, but Massachusetts is a particular problem,” Pulliam said.

In 2006, there were 34 domestic violence-related homicides and suicides, according to Jane Doe Inc. figures. There were 19 deaths in 2005.

“The rise in domestic violence-related deaths across the commonwealth is deeply troubling and this is an issue that Diane and I are both concerned about,” said Governor Deval Patrick of he and his wife. “I have taken proactive steps in my administration to develop far-reaching and long-term solutions.”

Last week, the state launched a five-year training program to give veteran police officers additional instruction in the areas of domestic and sexual violence, said Sheridan Haines, executive director of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

The help can’t come too soon. During a November 2006 census of 40 percent of all domestic violence services in Massachusetts, the National Network to End Domestic Violence found that during a 24-hour period a startling 111 requests for services were turned down by local programs due to a lack of services.

“There are whole sectors in this state and across the country that we are just failing,” said Mary R. Lauby, Jane Doe’s executive director.

Little is said anywhere about the role of the church or the community in all that turbulence. Each one is left to himself or herself over there.


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