MEXICO — The district attorney for Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties told those at a Domestic Violence Memorial Vigil on Monday evening that physical abuse affects “everybody,” regardless of social, educational or economic status.
Andrew S. Robinson told about 20 people attending the vigil at the town gazebo that he’s learned much about domestic violence during his time as a prosecutor.
“It became very clear to me that there’s an counterintuitive dynamic that exists that’s very different from the protection from abuse order,” he said. “It became, ‘Look, if you’re putting him in jail, you’re dismantling what limited structure I have that I value.’ And when you’re talking to victims, sometimes it was contrary to what they needed. So then I started thinking, maybe we’ve got more to learn here.”
Over time, he said, he learned domestic violence touched every social and economic situation.
“I’ve met with doctors’ wives, people who hadn’t graduated from high school, people who work in mills and had good salaries, people who work three part-time jobs. The salary didn’t matter, and it wasn’t about education. It wasn’t about any identifiable group. It affected everybody,” Robinson said.
“Then I realized that as you met with each victim, there were some needs that were universal, and a lot of others that came across as being very specific. If you try to approach domestic violence in a cookie-cutter fashion, you were going to do a disservice, both to your victim and ultimately to the goal of making the community safer,” he said.
Robinson said as years went by, he developed more skills about investigating domestic violence and started seeing more progress. People were being held accountable. A prevention program became established.
“Then something happened that was worth its weight in gold — people started talking about it. And the education level of the jurors, of the judges, of law enforcement, prosecutors, started growing. And it stopped being conclusive or making assumptions. When that happened, we became better at handling domestic violence,” he said.
Robinson said, “When I think of an evening where community members come together, and we’re talking about the issues, and we’re honoring those who have suffered from domestic violence, and we’re trying to support those who are experiencing it today, that’s a huge leap forward, and an important development that’s only existed for the last few years.”
He said that, as a community, coming together to deal with domestic violence, “we’re no longer avoiding the tough topics. We’re trying to engage, treating victims with more respect and understanding. It makes me proud.”
But Robinson noted it does not mean “we have finished our journey. We have a long way to go. When all of us come together, like we are tonight, and we’re focused on the issue together, we as a community can make it a lot better.”
Mexico Police Chief Roy Hodsdon said no one entity or person can stop domestic violence. It takes an entire community that’s united.
He said law enforcement is working side by side with Safe Voices, prosecutors, lawmakers, victim advocates, medical personnel, counselors, community members and others to end domestic violence.
“Throughout my career, I’ve seen a large shift in how officers investigate domestic violence and what occurs in the aftermath of an arrest,” the chief said. “Officers are now better trained in domestic violence incidents. Once an arrest is made, the process starts.”
He said officers work with the victims, alongside Safe Voices and the victim advocates and prosecutors, to make sure the victim is not forgotten and their voice is heard.
“A few years ago, we were very fortunate to gain our own domestic violence prosecutor, who continues to do a fabulous job to make sure offenders are held accountable for their actions,” Hodsdon said. “Our district attorney, Andrew Robinson, plays a large part, as well as his prosecuting staff.”
Hodsdon said the community is one of the last parts of the hurdle to become the united team.
“Now, more and more citizens are coming forward to take the stand and make the call to the police or the dispatchers to report a possible domestic incident. Without their help, we would not be where we are today,” he said.
Diane Gallagher, Oxford County community educator and youth advocate for Safe Voices, said the event was to “honor those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, offer hope to those still facing abuse, and support and celebrate all survivors.”
Domestic Violence Memorial Vigils were also held in Longley Square in Norway, Meetinghouse Park in Farmington and Festival Park in Auburn.