Politics

Governor Baker shining spotlight on sexual assault

Council of 30 will work to help implement laws

Governor Charlie Baker.
Jessica Hill/Associated Press/Pool
Governor Charlie Baker.

Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order on Monday reestablishing a council that brings advocates against sexual assault and domestic violence together with law enforcement and government officials.

The council’s aim is to improve prevention, enhance existing support services, and hold perpetrators accountable. The group will also help implement the state’s new domestic violence laws. The 30-member Governor’s Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence was established by former governor Paul Cellucci’s administration, in which Baker served.

“I’m honored to have an opportunity to continue his work with these great people here today,” Baker said at the State House. “Now, we’ll do our part.”

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Last year, there were more than 2,000 cases of sexual assault reported in Massachusetts, a number that Baker said “does not reflect the countless incidents that go unreported. We fear there are many more.”

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This year, domestic violence has killed 10 people, the governor said.

Baker was flanked by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey — both of whom are on the council — and several of his Cabinet members. Tammy Mello, the director of violence prevention in the office of health and human services, also stood with the governor Monday. Mello will serve as the council’s executive director, overseeing the day-to-day operations of a group that will meet at least every two months.

In the audience were various council members, the men wearing white ribbons on the lapels of their suits and the women wearing awareness buttons.

Sarah Perry, who will serve on the council, said Monday the group will help keep a continued spotlight on sexual assault and domestic violence.

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“Keeping that focus there is really key to effecting societal change,” said Perry, executive director of The Second Step.

Her organization, which provides counseling for children, financial aid, legal help, and a multitude of other services, is currently housing 58 people and providing help to an additional 800 throughout its community programs. More than 60 percent of those receiving help from The Second Step are children, Perry said.

There needs to be an increased awareness, she said, of the effects of domestic violence on children. Those who grew up witnessing domestic violence “are at greater risk of getting into abusive relationships themselves as perpetrators or victims unless we can interrupt that generational cycle,” she said.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at akilah.johnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.