No more

By Patrisha McLean | Jul 13, 2019

Another day, another local man beats up his wife or girlfriend and gets a pass from the Knox County courts.

From a front page article by Stephen Betts in the July 4 Camden Herald:

A woman walks into the Camden Police Station to report that her live-in boyfriend, 21-year-old Christian G. Fisk, assaulted her. The officer sees large bruises on her arms and on both sides of her face, and scratch marks on her neck. She says he tried to strangle her many times, that he bought her a makeup kit to cover the injuries, that he warned her that if she left him, he would kill her and her family.

On July 1, he makes his initial appearance in Knox County Court in Rockland, on charges that he repeatedly assaulted and tried to strangle a woman. His bail? $500.

What did this woman endure that was not reported and over how long a time period? What did it take for her to walk into that police station? What did the court reaction tell her about how seriously society and the law takes what was done to her? And how safe do you think she is feeling now, and actually is now, having broken her silence to authorities, and with him (presumably) out on bail?

From the Crime and Courts section of the Courier-Gazette and Camden Herald, the behavior revealed in this news article — both behind the closed doors of a local home, and through the open doors of a local court — is shockingly, shamefully and scarily, anything but an anomaly.

Feb. 21

Milorad Stanivokovic threw a Cushing woman against the furniture like she was a rag doll, then tried to strangle her as she pleaded for her life and that of their unborn baby.

Judge Susan Sparaco pointed out that the assaults occurred while the victim was pregnant with their child, and, “allowed Stanivukovic to have contact with [a young child they had together].”

In St. George, a police officer responding to a 911 call heard a man screaming from inside an apartment, and when he knocked on the door a woman cried out for help. The officer saw Michael E. Wiley punch this woman in the ribs and stomach. Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald noted she had marks on her neck and her voice was raspy, and she reported that the night before he had strangled her in front of three small children. At the time of this assault Wiley was free on bail, and prohibited from being in contact with her. He had two prior felony assaults.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison with five and a half of these “suspended” or lifted after probation.

Fernald said the sentence agreement involving a mere a year and a half of prison time was a compromise because “the victim was cooperative at times, but other times was not cooperative” with the prosecution.

May 23

Brandton C. Woodward of Rockland, two domestic violence charges, 364 days in jail, all suspended; Robin Tribou of Bangor, domestic violence assault, 364 days in jail, all suspended; James W. Pierce of Cushing, two domestic violence charges, $500 fine.

June 13

Hugh Craney of Friendship, two counts of domestic violence assault, dismissed; Dylan Tedford of Edgecomb, domestic violence assault, 364 days in jail, all suspended; Nicholas Campbell of Warren, domestic violence terrorizing, dismissed; criminal mischief, unconditional discharge and $50 restitution; terrorizing, $250 fine.

Year-in, and year-out, Knox County and Waldo County each take in around 400 calls for help from violent intimate partners. But this just hints at the mayhem in our homes, because with domestic violence, 911 calls are generally placed only at the second the woman thinks she will die. (Men are victims of domestic violence, too, but by every measure the vast majority of victims are women). There are a host of reasons for this lack of reporting, but the main one is fear, and justifiable fear: You can lock your front door, but the domestic abuser is one criminal who stays behind it with you.

Half of the murders in Maine continue to be as a result of domestic abuse, a figure that has stubbornly remained level for more than a decade, according to the 2018 report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel.

Can anyone doubt that this litany of domestic violence is tied to treatment of the perpetrators that, not rising to even a slap on the wrist, is more like a kiss on the cheek?

My photo/audio project "Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse" is now touring the state. Twenty-one women, including my hairdresser, my best friend’s daughter, and my neighbor, are shaking off fear and shame to reveal boyfriends and husbands — sometimes over decades, and sometimes decades ago — who broke their limbs and strangled them, raped them, killed their pets, doled out dollar bills and demanded receipts for gas and groceries, ruined their credit, and controlled even who and what they looked at.

These women are from Camden to Calais and Scarborough to Lewiston, and in every single case when the abuse got to the attention of authorities, there were no meaningful legal consequences for him, and her abuse continued with and through the court process.

It is past time for the courts to declare zero tolerance for domestic violence, the way it was declared and acted upon with drunk driving, after mothers said “No more.” From my own experience with the Knox County District Attorney’s Office as a domestic abuse victim, here is a partial list of what should happen locally to stem the tide of blood and bruises in our homes.

1) Have prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office who actually prosecute and don't just rubber stamp case after case that comes across their desks with shameful plea deals.

2) Provide victim advocates in the District Attorney’s Office who truly advocate for the victim, or at least stop calling them victim advocates, because now they work for the District Attorney, not the victim.

3) No more “deferred depositions” when there is violent domestic assault. In these especially pernicious plea deals, a defendant pleads guilty to a charge, then after he meets specific conditions the charge is wiped off the record as if the crime never happened. Not only is this a slap in the face to the victim, but it is a laboratory for future victims because, with the record wiped clean, women on the dating scene have no way of knowing this person is a dangerous partner.

4) No leniency for “first offenders” in domestic abuse cases. Often, it is the first time it has been reported, not the first time it has occurred.

The last election brought women into key positions affecting domestic abuse policy locally and statewide. I have heard promising reports about District Attorney Natasha Irving from sheriffs in both Waldo and Knox counties, and Gov. Janet Mills is a longtime advocate for domestic violence victims, and just signed into law a ground-breaking domestic abuse bill drafted by a survivor and participant in "Finding Our Voices," Jeannine Lauber Oren, which addresses economic abuse.

So there is some hope that in Knox County and Maine domestic abusers will not continue to get away with everything short of murder.

Autumn, a "Finding Our Voices" survivor/participant from Lewiston, wrote to me recently:

“Yes, monsters are real. But they don't hide under the bed. No, no, no, they are fast asleep in the bed beside you.”

Too many women are suffering and dying in Maine at the hands of their violent intimate partners.

We need to get violent men out of our beds and into jail where they belong, so that their victims can feel and be safe, so that perpetrators will be stopped from ensnaring other women as their next victims, and so a message will be sent that men who batter the person they purport to love will be held at least as accountable as if the person they beat up were a stranger.

Patrisha Mclean is a photojournalist who lives in Camden. The "Finding Our Voices" exhibit is at Waterman’s Community Center on North Haven through July 21, at the Community Center on Islesboro in August, and at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta this fall. For more information, go to FindingOurVoices.net.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Alison S McKellar | Jul 17, 2019 01:28

You are amazing, Pat. Thank you for sharing this chilling but necessary piece. I have been shaking my head as I read these headlines and it seems to be getting worse. I think I read with one of these cases that the bail was set low to make sure that the defendant could pay it and keep his job. What??!!! The criminal justice system seems to be more focused on the experience of the perpetrator than that of the victim. And the problem with that goes beyond domestic violence cases.



Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Jul 15, 2019 10:44

Amen !!!!!!!  Every once in a while outrage is expressed over the absurd bail and the ultimate lack of a sentence commensurate with the crime. How many times do we have to read that an offender was out on bail and despite a restraining order returned to batter again? I really don't want to hear about anger management, being sober for six weeks and the charges are being dropped as an excuse for leniency. Enough.

 

Women return because they have nowhere to go, housing is a huge component in helping women regain their lives and avoid more violence. I was born and raised in Maine, it is a bastion of misogyny, unfortunately, little changes here, but it has to change. One generation teaches the next, the legacy of abuse thrives.

 

Maine was strong during the temperance movement. The objective was not to totally eliminate alcohol but was a way to prevent drunken men from beating their families. Desperate times called for desperate measures. We're due for a major overhaul of the Maine judicial system, it's long overdue, the cycle needs to be broken.

 

 

 



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