The number of homicides related to domestic violence in Maine more than doubled over the past year, prompting Gov. John Baldacci to urge health care professionals to look more carefully for signs of violence and sexual assault, reports the Associated Press. Domestic violence-related homicides rose from eight in 2007 to 17 so far this year, Baldacci said. “The impact of domestic violence and sexual assault in Maine is staggering,” he said. “This is a serious public health problem.”
Officials want more medical professionals to incorporate routine screenings into their practices, to be trained in spotting red flags and to ask patients directly whether they are safe at home. Officials did not see a direct link between the souring economy, which adds stress in many families, to the dramatic rise in domestic violence deaths. “The economy doesn’t cause violence,” said Dora Mills, director of the state disease control agency, although she acknowledged that added financial pressures could exacerbate it. Officials see a more direct link between substance abuse and sexual assaults and domestic violence. Baldacci said 60 percent of Maine’s homicides are related to domestic violence.