EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 2, 2013

Stats show need for domestic violence team

AMESBURY — Since the Greater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Team’s inception eight years ago, team members identified and helped 129 high-risk victims before their cases took a more tragic turn.

In the 10 years before the team was formed in 2005, there were eight domestic violence-related deaths.

That fact and others are part of a detailed report released earlier this week by the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Amesbury, the team’s lead agency, which highlighted their accomplishments. It’s the first report to be released by the Amesbury and Newburyport-based crisis center since Feb. 2012.

Consisting of area police officers, Newburyport District Court probation officers, the Essex County District Attorney’s office, the Massachusetts Parole Board and others, the team has saved victims from dying at the hands of an abusive partner, and protected dozens of children in the process.

Once a month, the team meets inside the Newburyport Police Department and reviews two to four cases, as well as monitoring ongoing cases. By studying the files of victims to identify the most troubling cases, team members are able to brainstorm intervention strategies that prevent situations from escalating to a lethal level.

The team was developed after an in-depth look into the murder of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter, the Amesbury mother killed by her estranged husband in 2002 when he broke into their home, and shot her to death before killing himself.

Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center executive director Suzanne Dubus said law enforcement agencies have told her that without the team, there would have been more Dorothy Giunta-Cotters across the region.

“These are the worst, most violent offenders that live in our neighborhood,” Dubus said. “These are the scariest cases.”

Since its creation, the crisis center has referred 39 percent of victims to the Greater Newburyport Domestic Violence High Risk Team, with a majority of referrals (53 percent) coming from law enforcement agencies. Smaller percentages of referrals have come from the Essex County District Attorney’s office (4 percent) and the Newburyport District Court’s probation or parole offices (5 percent).

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