About half the homicides in Maine each year are related to domestic violence. In the wake of tragedies like these, those closest to the victim often are left questioning whether they did all they could for her.

This is true in Garland, where Natasha Geisinger has been asking herself how she could have intervened before Christina Sargent and Sargent’s two children were killed last weekend. The triple homicide brings to 12 the number of domestic violence-related killings in Maine in 2014, authorities say; Sargent’s boyfriend, Keith Coleman, has been charged in the slayings.

Sargent reportedly had been trying to break up with Coleman — and Geisinger told MPBN that she “should have done something” to help her friend and neighbor escape.

But when one is worried about an abuse victim, it’s not always clear what to do next — pointing up the obvious need to educate the public on the best ways to channel concern into action.

Abusers continue the cycle of power and control by isolating their victims from friends, family and anyone else who might be on the victims’ side. Victims are often at greatest risk when their abusive partner finds out that they’ve been taking steps to leave or have told others about the abuse.

Another barrier to disclosure is judgment from those a victim is close to, whether that friend or relative implies that the victim is obligated to stay and make the relationship work, asks “Why do you put up with it?” or tries to pressure the victim into leaving.

It’s no surprise, then, that many victims don’t want to raise the issue themselves. For their part, friends and family may fear that they’re violating their loved one’s privacy by starting the conversation. But if said with sensitivity, tact and support, the simple sentence “I love you, and I’m worried about you” can convey unconditional support, understanding and advocacy.

It can be counterproductive to call police if the goal is to have an officer go out and talk to the abuser, since the disclosure may lead to an escalation of violence. Law enforcement agencies, however, are a valuable source of information about how to help a loved one who’s in an abusive relationship.

So are Maine’s domestic-violence prevention agencies and the 24-hour statewide help line operated by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence: 1-866-834-HELP. These organizations also can help figure out next steps, such as seeking a protection-from-abuse order and putting together an emergency kit (with items such as prepaid cellphones, bus passes and grocery store gift cards).

There are no easy solutions to the challenges faced by abuse victims, and there is no fail-safe way to ensure that every victim survives an abusive relationship. But as victims seek their way out, friends and family members can make a big difference just by showing that they’ll be there no matter what.

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