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October 30, 2013

Coakley, DeLeo in Amesbury to discuss domestic violence

State officials talk domestic violence in North Shore visit

AMESBURY — Looking to strengthen state domestic violence laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley and House Speaker Robert DeLeo Tuesday visited the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, known nationally for its efforts to protect victims of domestic abuse and keep offenders behind bars.

The visit comes as Domestic Violence Awareness Month winds down.

The heightened interest in reviewing current domestic violence and restraining order laws comes after the shocking murder of Waltham resident Jennifer Martel in August, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend, Jared Remy, son of Red Sox television announcer Jerry Remy. It also comes amid a renewed push to fight domestic violence in a number of cities and towns — including Gloucester, where a coalition of city officials and service agencies have teamed up to advance a “Safety Sites” program, with businesses and other institutions placing signs indicating they will provide safe haven and help line information to those seeking shelter from threats or abuse.

Speaker DeLeo, addressing a boardroom packed with state lawmakers, local officials and area police, echoed statements he made shortly after the murder, saying he reached out to Coakley about whether she’d be interested in partnering with him in changing laws that would further protect domestic violence victims. He said he hopes to come up with legislation, with Coakley’s input, by the end of the current legislative session that would improve the system.

“How can we make the system better? Is it the court, is it police, is it the Legislature, is it money, is it wording in a statute?:” DeLeo asked. “Whatever it may be, I think that we as a Legislature, as a commonwealth have to do something. How can we make it better?”

Immediately following Martel’s murder, Coakley also made it known that she favored reviewing domestic violence laws. Since then, she and DeLeo have been looking at the laws currently on the books, what’s working and what’s lacking. She called yesterday’s visit to the crisis center part of her research in terms of what is working.

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