By Alvin Buyinza | ABuyinza@masslive.com
Warning: This article mentions domestic violence. If you or a loved one need assistance, please contact Safe Link, a 24/7 domestic violence hotline at: 800-799-7233. Additional resources can be found here.
Dover police found a mother, father and teenage daughter dead inside their home last month in what police believe was the result of domestic violence. The Kamal family killings are part of a “dramatic increase” in domestic violence incidents across Massachusetts, according to a recently released state report.
The number of murders and “non-negligent manslaughters” in the Commonwealth increased from 21 in 2020 to 28 in 2022, according to federal data cited in the State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team’s 2023 annual report.
Except for kidnapping and intimidation, other crimes such as aggravated assault — which includes assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, strangulation and assault and battery on a pregnant person — have increased from 5,690 cases in 2020 to 6,102 in 2022.
In Dover, local police were called Dec. 28, 2023 to check on the people at 8 Wilson’s Way from a family member concerned about the Kamal family.
Police said they not only found a gun in the house near the deceased body of Rakesh Kamal, 57, but they also found his wife, Teena Kamal, 54, and daughter, Arianna Kamal, 18, dead as well – evidence that points to an incident of domestic violence.
A similar case played out in February 2023, when mother and son Linda and Sebastian Robinson were shot and killed by Andrew Robinson — Sebastian’s father and Linda’s husband — in their Andover home.
What needs to be done?
The report suggests Massachusetts bolster its efforts in educating the public on how to identify red flags in relationships, and provide more resources to support survivors of abuse as well as offenders seeking to change their behavior.
Oftentimes when people think of domestic violence, they imagine physical violence in a home setting, Hema Sarang-Sieminski, the deputy director at Jane Doe Inc., a non-profit that supports survivors of domestic violence, told MassLive. But the reality is, although physical harm is one form of domestic violence, several other forms of abuse can take form in a relationship, she said.
“The most important thing to understand is that at the core of domestic violence or intimate partner violence or partner abuse, as it can be referred to, in many ways is about power and control and the abuse of that power and control,” Sarang-Sieminski said.
Behaviors such as isolating people from their family and friends, over-monitoring their social media or restricting what they can do in their free time can all be signs of intimate partner abuse, according to Sarang-Sieminski.
“Those are the types of behaviors that we really feel that as community members, as coworkers, as colleagues, as folks who are in schools together – we can all play a part in spotting some of those kinds of dynamics and reaching out to our friends and family who might need some support,” she continued.
In 2018, Massachusetts launched RESPECTfully, a statewide campaign aimed at educating teens on how to build healthy successful relationships, the report said. The campaign included a series of short, animated videos that taught audiences how to navigate issues such as jealousy, conflict and name-calling in relationships.
Later in 2020, Massachusetts launched the Healthy Relationships Grant Program, an initiative that awarded money to five programs across the Commonwealth to work with young people and “youth-serving organizations” on how to build healthy relationships, according to the report.
Despite having strong support from the governor’s office and legislature for these programs, the number of domestic violence cases shows, “that more needs to be done,” the report said.
“It is our recommendation to explore whether these programs should be expanded, or new programs need to be created to reach more people across the Commonwealth,” the report said.
The State Team also recommends lawmakers file legislation to expand state records regarding offenders. Current state law does not open up all records regarding offenders from certain state agencies, according to the report.
“Members believe this oversight have left them at a disadvantage during reviews,” the report said.
Medical records such as emergency rooms within hospital visits or mental health information are also sealed from view, the report said.
“Looking ahead to 2024 will bring opportunity for fresh perspectives on the continued development of the fatality review team and process,” the report said. “As always, the State Team has identified and secured the partnering District Attorney Offices and will continue to review cases to assist in determining recommendations each year with the goal of ending the cycle of violence.”
If you or a loved one need assistance, please contact Safe Link, a 24/7 domestic violence hotline at: 800-799-7233. Additional resources can be found here.