Document 10: Statement of Ruth Hodgdon, Damariscotta Police Department. Senate Hearing 103-878, 12 November 1993. Hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 103rd Congress, First Session on Examining the Rise of Violence Against Women in the State of Maine and in Other Rural Areas, South Portland, Maine. Serial No. J-103-36.
Ruth Hodgdon was a patrol officer for the police department of Damariscotta, a coastal community in Lincoln County, Maine. In 1992, of twenty five homicides in the state of Maine eleven stemmed from domestic violence situations. Hodgdon had worked intensively with victims of domestic violence for seven years. She expressly opposed those who argued that domestic violence was part of the private arena of the family and should not become the subject of legislation.
STATEMENT OF RUTH HODGDON
Ms. HODGDON. Thank you, Senator. My name is Ruth Anna Hodgdon. I am a 36-year-old single parent of a 16-year-old daughter. I am employed as a patrol officer for the Damariscotta Police Department in Damariscotta, ME. Damariscotta is a coastal community in Lincoln County with a population of 1,800 people in the winter and about 4,000 in the summer.
SENATOR COHEN. Could you just pull the mike closer?
Ms. HODGDON. I have been in law enforcement for 12 years and am a graduate of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Waterville, ME. I also hold an Associate of Science degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maine in Augusta, ME, and have 240 hours of training in domestic violence and 82 hours training in sexual assault advocacy. As a representative of my department, I am involved in public speaking for local civic groups and organizations and I provide training for schools as well as my own department. I have recently devised an informational packet for victims of domestic violence that contains many valuable resources. The packet is distributed by myself and fellow officers of the Damariscotta Police Department. I am currently involved in conducting a special investigation for the District Attorney's Office in Wiscasset, ME, involving a domestic violence situation. I have worked intensively with victims of domestic violence for the past 7 years.
Domestic Violence is a crime. It is a crime perpetrated through the use of power and control over the victim. There are many methods used by an abuser to gain power and control over a victim. The abuse may use isolation, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, threats and intimidation, male privilege, and the common thread which runs through all these methods is the method of physical abuse. Physical abuse helps the batterer reinforce the goals of control.
Any police officer will tell you as the pressures on society mount, we see a dramatic increase in the incidence of domestic violence. With the increase we are seeing a more lethal abuser than ever before. We in law enforcement use what is known as the lethality scale to assess domestic violence situations. This scale was formulated by a nonprofit Boston-based agency called Emerge. There are five predictable indicators. If the abuser displays two or more of the behaviors, he or she is considered a potential lethal risk and the partner is warned. The victim needs to be prepared to leave or escape on a moment's notice. The five predictable indicators are as follows: One is drug or alcohol abuse; two, extreme jealously and obsessive need to control the victims behavior; three, abusers who attempt and/or threaten suicide and/or homicide; four, use or threatened use of weapons; and, five, surveillance of the partner's activities---stalking, the most lethal indicator of all as is shows an unstable state of mind.
Domestic violence is one of the most common of all crimes. Most family violence is committed against women. Domestic violence takes its toll on the family structure, society, and the future. Domestic violence robs our children of a future as most often the children in the violent situation are emotionally traumatized by the witnessing of family violence. Many of these children will grow up to repeat the pattern as a victim or as an abuser.
The worst obstacle faced by victims today is society's attitude towards them. Domestic violence can occur in any family and does regardless of race, income, or religion. Society as a whole needs to shift the responsibility from the battered women, where the responsibility has traditionally been left, to the batterers and to the community where it belongs.
Society is very critical of the women who stays in a battering situation. The reasons for staying are many. It may not be safe for the victim to leave until a later time. The victim may not have anywhere to go, may not have any money or any transportation. With all these basics of human life withheld, the victim literally becomes a prisoner in her own home.
The police officer may be the first and only person in the victim's life to ever tell him or her that there is help out there and that the person is a good, intelligent human being. By the time we are called to a domestic violence situation, the abuser has usually managed to strip the victim of every shred of self-esteem and human dignity.
As of October 19, 1993, the Maine Legislature removed a large obstacle for the law enforcement community by enacting legislation that allows for warrantless arrests in these situations. This and the anti-stalking legislation are valuable tools. We are now able to go forward in cases in which the victim will not or cannot participate in evidence gathering. The responsibility of pressing charges is taken off the victim and placed on the police officer and the police agency, which is exactly where it should lie.
We as a society have made some great strides forward, but there is still much to be done. We need to move forward and provide our State with a consistent, fair, and respectable approach to domestic violence situations.
Funds and personnel are needed to administer training programs providing for a coordinated and consistent response by the entire system, starting with the street officer and running the gambit all the way through the system to the justice that sits on the bench of domestic violence cases.
Batterers need to receive increasingly harsh punishment for their continued battering. At the same time they need to be offered the support and training required to change their unacceptable behavior.
We need funding for more and better safehouses for the victims of domestic violence. The people that run the programs which provide advocacy and assistance to the victims do the very best they can with what they have, but what they have to work with isn't enough. The organization in my own area will not accept a male child over the age of 12, so what do I do with a battered mother and her 13-year-old son? How do I keep them safe? There is no place for them to go but back to the abusive situation.
Federal monies should be allocated so that the small police departments will not have their investigation stymied by time and budgetary complaints. If there is only one officer on duty for a certain municipality at a time, there is no way humanly possible to do a complete and thorough investigation into a domestic. A program should be initiated whereby theses agencies could receive funding for a full-time domestic officer within each and every agency who needs one. Domestic violence cases go through the system with faulty investigations every day. Patrol officers have no allotted time for follow-up either because budgets are so tight that there are not monies available for overtime.
Domestic violence assault is the major cause of injury to women in our country, more frequent than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Since I have started speaking moments ago, 8-10 women have been severely beaten.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a statistic to consider. In 1992 in the State of Maine there were 25 homicides; 11 of those homicides stemmed from domestic violence situations.
SENATOR COHEN. Thank you very much, Officer Hodgdon.
Our final witness for this panel is Lisa. Lisa, please tell us about your own personal experience.
back to top