“A survivor is in immediate need of a beefed-up security system” was the message from the district attorney’s office to Finding Our Voices, the grassroots nonprofit I run, which provides financial assistance among its forms of support to Maine domestic abuse survivors.

Billie Sherman of the GFWC Skowhegan Woman’s Club with the Finding Our Voices poster of Amy Burns, whose ex-husband, a Maine state trooper, assaulted her without repercussion from his superiors when she reported this to them. Photo by Patrisha McLean

According to this advocate, the woman’s ex tried to break into her house for the second time while she had a restraining order against him. He told her he was armed and threatened to harm her and then to kill himself as well.

How is this not a fair warning of a murder-suicide?

A murder-suicide like the one in Hiram a month ago when Stephanie Ranieri, 43, described in her obituary as “the kindest free spirit with a heart of gold,” was gunned down by her ex, police said.

Or the apparent murder-suicide in Lisbon Falls last week when 30-year-old Kylee Turcotte screamed, then was found dead in broad daylight right on Main Street in the car of her ex, who later shot himself.

Back to the survivor in need of more home security: Her ex was in custody. It was late in the day. The advocate let her know he would probably post bail and be released within hours.


The survivor was frantic. How could she keep herself and her young son safe?

Home was not safe, because, unlike a stranger who mugged someone on the street, this criminal knew where she lived. The homes of relatives and friends were not safe because he knew where they all lived, too. She had work the next morning, and her son had school. She could try to scramble for somewhere else to sleep that night, but what about the days and nights after that?

Why was this two-time violator of a restraining order able to get out of jail just because he was able to come up with the cash bail? Why is the danger to the victim if the perpetrator is released not a consideration for the release? Why does the right of a perpetrator to freedom trump the right of a victim to safety?

In news articles about domestic violent rampages (note to media: Stop calling them “incidents”), officials are invariably quoted as saying there is no threat to the public.


Finding Our Voices is in the middle of an autumn “Let’s Talk About It” tour that is bringing survivors to public libraries from Millinocket to York to lead community conversations about domestic abuse. The local police at our Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor presentations all said that “domestics” pose the most danger to them, personally, of any 911 calls they respond to.

On Oct. 6, the GFWC Skowhegan Woman’s Club and town clerk-treasurer Gail Pelotte joined Finding Our Voices to paper downtown business windows with the group’s posters, featuring the faces and voices of 45 Maine survivors aged 18 to 83. At Joe’s Flat Iron Cafe, which served as the headquarters for our mission, I was told that one of the reasons the club stepped up to do this with us was that in 2017, a member lost her daughter and adult grandson to domestic violence. Before the man killed his wife and son in their home, police said, he wounded another relative and killed a neighbor.

This Domestic Violence Awareness Month (and all through the year), follow the lead of the Skowhegan women and do something to end it.

This could be donating time and money to groups helping domestic violence victims; reaching out to someone you know or suspect is going through it, and agitating for change in your community or across the state. My list of changes around domestic violence that are needed now includes a dangerousness assessment for bail; electronic monitoring of violent perpetrators when they are released from jail pending trial; a more robust and quicker-responding Victims Fund, and minimum and meaningful jail and prison time for repeat domestic abusers, because the only way for everyone to be safe is to have these most dangerous of criminals behind bars.

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