Domestic violence groups often urge abuse victims to get protection orders, even if abusers tend to violate them, because those orders give police a reason to make an arrest when the abuser contacts or approaches the victim.
Amy Lake seemed to have done everything right.
She got a protection from abuse order against her husband, a man she said repeatedly threatened to kill her and their two children and who police said held the family hostage at gunpoint last year. She told friends, family and co-workers about her situation, putting them on alert. She got help from police, who, according to news reports, checked on her regularly. She moved.
On Monday, police say, Lake, a 38-year-old teacher, and her children, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12, were shot to death in their Dexter home by 37-year-old Steven Lake, her estranged husband and the children's father. Steven Lake then killed himself. A family member has said he was angry about his custody dispute and upset that he was prohibited from seeing his children. He was particularly frustrated that he couldn't attend his son's eighth-grade graduation this week.
Maine State Police are investigating how Steven Lake got into the house. They're also looking into where he got the gun. According to the Bangor Daily News, the protection from abuse order prohibited him from having firearms.
"It was incredibly devastating for us to watch it unfold yesterday," said Cara Ouellette, outreach director for Safe Voices, formerly the Abused Women's Advocacy Project, which helps those dealing with domestic violence in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.
"This is a reality we see on a daily basis," Ouellette said. "This is something that most certainly is a real risk for a lot of people we help."
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"It's astronomical, to be honest," she said. "The amount of protection from abuse orders that we help with every year is a huge number. The amount that get violated is pretty significant."