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Read our latest newsletter: February 2017.

Coalition 'alarmed' by Mass. domestic violence homicide figures

QUINCY – Julie Meede, the young mother stabbed to death Wednesday night, allegedly by her estranged husband from Weymouth, is the third victim of domestic violence homicide so far this year in Massachusetts, according to Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against domestic and sexual violence.

The brutal killing of Meede, 34, in her Norton apartment highlights the problem of domestic violence and the emotional trauma exacted on children who witness it, advocates and prevention experts said Friday.

Meede’s three children and a niece – ages 9 months to 10 years – were in the home when she was stabbed multiple times by her husband, Martin McDonald, a 34-year-old electrician from East Weymouth, police reports said.

McDonald pleaded innocent to the murder and assault charges Thursday in Attleboro and is being held without bail pending psychological evaluations at Bridgewater State Hospital.

“While it’s too early to call this a trend, we are alarmed that there have been three domestic violence-related homicides in the first few weeks of the year,” Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for the Jane Doe Inc. coalition, said Friday.

The organization counted 18 victims of domestic violence homicide in Massachusetts last year, up from 12 victims in 2014 and 15 victims in 2013. Domestic violence homicides in the state peaked in 2007 with 39 deaths, the majority of them women and children. 

Between 2003 and 2012, there were 234 people killed in domestic violence incidents in the state, in addition to 91 perpetrators killed by victims in self-defense, by suicide, by police or someone else, according to a report released last October by Jane Doe Inc. and Simmons College School of Social Work.

The last murder in Norton was in 2007, and it was a case of domestic violence.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s killing, social workers are offering help to both the Norton police and family members of the victim, focusing especially on the children who witnessed the act.

“Our advocates are going to be working with the children, and we are in close touch with the (Bristol County district attorney),” said Marcia Szymanski, executive director of New Hope, a domestic violence prevention agency based in Attleboro that serves Norton and more than 50 other communities in southeastern and central Massachusetts.

Working with children traumatized by domestic violence requires a long-view approach, said Jessica Cohen, the senior manager of residential services at DOVE, a Quincy-based agency also dedicated to preventing domestic violence and sexual assault.

Cohen said that children exposed to a domestic violence killing in their own home experience severe emotional trauma that will require years of healing and help not just from trained experts but also from adult family members, teachers and coaches.

“These kids have lost a caregiver, a totally different layer to the trauma of just witnessing violence,” Cohen said Friday. “It’s a complex trauma. … Their sense of safety is completely robbed. All the rules have been broken.”

Children whose lives are shattered by such an experience need a sense of routine and predictability, and they need to be around people where they can talk about things other than domestic violence, she said.

“Any work we do has to be long term,” Cohen said. “You cannot just have a quick fix.”

Cohen and Szymansk both stressed the importance of not blaming victims of domestic violence for exposing children to traumatic experiences.

People stay connected to abusive partners for many reasons, said Cohen. 

“We need to hold the abusive persons accountable,” she said.

Only 11 percent of victims of domestic violence homicides between 2003 and 2012 had active restraining orders in place. Norton police did not return calls Friday, so it’s not known if Meede ever had a restraining order against McDonald.

Reach Chris Burrell at cburrell@ledger.com or follow on Twitter @Burrell_Ledger.

 

 


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