Domestic violence in Massachusetts claimed the lives of 334 people over 10 years and accounted for 14 percent of all homicide deaths in the state from 2003 to 2012, according to a report released Friday.
The report prepared by the nonprofit Jane Doe Inc. calculated the death toll by tallying how many people were killed during 247 domestic violence incidents that transpired in a decade.
The casualties include people killed by batterers as well as the slain children and associates of domestic violence victims, and bystanders, the report said.
Also included in the death count are perpetrators who committed suicide or were killed by a victim of domestic violence, police, or someone else, the report said.
Jane Doe counted 243 victims who died during domestic violence incidents and 91 perpetrators who either committed suicide or were killed by police, a victim acting in self defense, or someone else.
“The biggest takeaway for us is the reminder of how lethal domestic violence can be without appropriate and adequate interventions, resources, and, support,” said Jane Doe spokeswoman Toni Troop, who authored the report.
The report is the first examination of domestic violence homicides during a long period of time and is intended to raise awareness about the problem, Troop said.
“Domestic violence homicides are among the most predictable and therefore preventable,” she said. “This report is a reminder that this a serious problem that affects a wide swath of people in Massachusetts. We have to make sure the resources and the response are there.”
The vast majority of homicides — nearly 90 percent — are committed by men, and the majority of victims — nearly 72 percent — are women and girls, the report said.
One expert who worked on the report highlighted the number of times that domestic violence turned fatal for people associated with a man or woman who was battered.
“There were 25 children killed in this 10-year period,” said Mary Gilfus, professor emeritus at the Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work. “There were a number of bystanders, coworkers, other relatives, and new partners of people who had been victimized.”
Jane Doe said it used media sources and other public records to develop the report. The organization’s research shows that a third of the lethal attacks were committed with a firearm.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association said the research suggests domestic violence is a public safety and public health issue.
“Reducing access to firearms, improving services for victims, and identifying risk factors before they lead to violent encounters are all key to preventing intimate partner violence,” he said in a statement.
The report also examined whether domestic violence victims had ever sought an abuse prevention order. In 59 percent of the incidents examined, no restraining order was found. In another 25 percent of cases, Jane Doe could not determine whether a victim had ever gone to court to seek a protective order, the report said.
Gloucester police officer Ron Piscitello, who was appointed to be his department’s domestic violence officer in July, said he is sometimes frustrated by the reluctance of some victims to seek a court order.
The control abusers exert over their victims is one explanation for this hesitancy, Piscitello said. He discussed one woman who suffered bruises, a black eye, and cuts at the hands of her boyfriend.
“I recalled being up in the court area explaining how to apply for the restraining order,” Piscitello said. “Her biggest concern? She was afraid that her boyfriend was going to get jail time . . . They’re still under their control.”
The release of the report coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is observed in October.
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, who leads the Governor’s Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, said the report reveals a “dark and tragic picture.”
“This issue knows no boundaries,” Polito said. “The data can really help us make sure we’re focused strategically on how we can reduce the incidents of domestic violence.”
She said the council is working on implementing new domestic violence provisions signed into law in August 2014 by then-Governor Deval Patrick.
The law mandates domestic and sexual violence training for prosecutors, law enforcement, court personnel, and certain workers in medicine, mental health, and human services. It provides for a leave of absence if an employee or family member is a victim of abuse.
“The training is important because it brings consistency to how courts and how law enforcement handle a call from a victim of domestic violence,” Polito said. “There should be no wrong door for a victim that reaches out for help.”Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org