In Newburyport, non-profit agency reports success in cutting domestic violence in its area

NEWBURYPORT-- A domestic violence initiative born out of the homicide of a battered wife a decade ago is working to revamp the way law enforcement and victim support agencies intervene in potentially lethal situations.

The Greater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Team released a comprehensive six-year report today containing numerous statistics pointing to its success in identifying potentially homicidal domestic violence situations.

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“Since it began in 2005, the team has intervened in 106 high-risk cases,” said Suzanne Dubus, executive director of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, which developed the team of more than a dozen local law enforcement and victim advocate individuals. She spoke during a morning press conference attended by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray and about 40 ranking police officers and anti-domestic violence advocates.

Dubus said there were eight domestic violence-related deaths in greater Newburyport in the decade before the team was created—and none since.

With the report, the center is hoping to convey to other domestic violence agencies, police, and judges across Massachusetts the effectiveness of working jointly to “implement interventions to prevent cases from escalating to lethal levels,” according to the report.

So far, the model has been adopted in 20 communities statewide, and the center is also pushing the model nationally.

While the emphasis is on preventing tragic outcomes, the focus is on the victim, making sure she is out of harm’s way and doesn’t have to uproot her life in doing so, Dubus said.

The center also announced it is making available through the Internet a comprehensive guide that other domestic violence agencies can access for information on how to address high-risk cases.

Murray said he and Governor Deval Patrick support the initiative.

“There were over 40 domestic violence homicides in 2007, and those numbers were overwhelming,” Murray said. He added that in October of that year, he and Patrick first learned of the team’s efforts.

“Shortly after that, the governor asked me to chair the sexual and domestic violence council to further explore how we can recognize and identify the best practices and replicate what we could to support the needs of survivors.”