SKOWHEGAN — Life size, cutout figures stood in silence inside the gazebo at Coburn Park in Skowhegan Wednesday night, each representing a victim of domestic violence.

Some adults. Some children. All deceased.

“No one deserves to be hurt,” was the message beside the figures presented by the Maine Silent Witness Project.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in observance of that social issue, the Somerset County Domestic Violence Task Force hosted a candle light vigil in the park and along the sidewalk to the Skowhegan municipal building where the Resilience in Action Improvisation Theater group performed a skit to illustrate a domestic violence situation.

It was all about raising awareness of the problem of domestic violence, said Michael Pike, the domestic violence investigator for the Somerset County District Attorney’s Office.

Pike read the names of 29 people who were killed from Oct. 2017 through Wednesday night’s vigil, each name followed by the ringing of gong by Beth Crowe, Pike’s co-chairman on the Domestic Violence Task Force.

“Of the 24 homicides that occurred in the state of Maine in 2018, 10 of the 24 are classified as domestic violence homicides,” Pike told the group, citing a report released this week.

Of the 37 homicides that were reported from 2016-2017, 16 victims died at the hands of a family member or intimate partner, according to the report. That rate, 43 percent, was close to where it’s been for more than 10 years.

Those findings were released this week by the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel, a group first created by the Maine Legislature in 1997 to review cases in which people have been killed by family or household members, then make recommendations for protecting victims.

“So roughly 50 percent of all murders that have been committed in the state of Maine this past year are domestic violence homicide related,” Pike told the assembled group of more than 30 people. “We do incredibly important work and we do it well, but we as a society still have a tremendous way to go in addressing this horrible issue.

“But by coming together as we are tonight, we can start to have a conversation on ways we can hopefully prevent those numbers from increasing.”

Pike’s remarks were followed by the reading of a poem by an anonymous author titled “If I Cry Alone,” in which the writer wonders that if, like the tree that falls in the forest when no one is around, are the cries of an assault victim heard if that person is alone.

“If pain has a voice, is it a sob, a cry in the dark,” the poem reads. “And if I cry alone then no one will hear it. And if no one hears it, does it make a sound.”

The report released this week found that 10 of the domestic violence perpetrators were husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends who killed or seriously injured their female partners, including a woman who was pregnant. It indicated that four of the perpetrators were parents who killed or seriously injured their children, while one was a grandmother who abused her grandson.

The report also included a number of other findings, including the lack of public health nurses and specialized investigators and probation officers who can provide coordinated care to victims of domestic violence, which Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, said her office is addressing.

“That is the reason that I have a sexual assault/domestic violence/elder abuse unit because I do think that you need to have a specialized response to crime against people,” Maloney said. “For crimes against people, I found it takes a different skill set to handle those cases, so I found in my office it was important to have a separate unit to handle it.”

She said that unit has specialists in both Somerset and Kennebec county who will undergo specialized training this month.

In addition to Wednesday night’s vigil and speak out against domestic violence, on Sunday, Oct. 21, there will be the second annual Race Against Domestic Violence beginning at 9 a.m., on the campus of Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield.

The 5-kilometer loop course starts and finishes at Prescott Hall. All proceeds benefit the Family Violence Project, whose mission is to end domestic violence in Kennebec and Somerset counties by increasing victim safety, empowering survivors, and advocating for social change.

A free 1-K children’s fun run begins at 9 a.m. The 5-k event is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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