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Children of Domestic Violence, Part One 

Joy Hollowell

Last year, the number of domestic-related homicides in Maine more than doubled to 19.In five of those cases, children were the victims.And, they were present when many of the other killings took place.Joy Hollowell begins a special report on how our state’s youngest victims are affected by domestic violence and what Maine is doing to help. “I don’t remember a whole lot because I was so young. But there are certain things that I do still remember in terms of certain situations where there was physical and mental harm going on.” “Police ever called to your house?” “Yes.”James Bell was only five years old when his mother decided to leave her abusive situation. She could only take James and his younger sister at the time, leaving two older brothers with their father. Less than a year later, James’ 9-year old sibling would be dead.A jury would eventually find James’ father guilty of murdering his son, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison. “To this day, he won’t admit that he did it, which I think is a little messed up to be honest, just because of what he’s put our whole family through. But, the thing that sucks the most for me, is the fact that I don’t really have the memories with my older brother, which is kind of a tough thing so,” Says James.James says he’s had no contact with his father since the trial. He has lots of questions, but no desire right now to ask his dad for the answers. “It’s kind of tough because, I mean, he’s your father so I mean, he’s kind of the reason you’re in the world.” Says James. “But at the same time, you think, why did he has to do this, it affected everybody in our family, it affected me personally, and that’s something that’s kind of tough to swallow sometimes.”James admits he’s gone through some rough periods, during his teenaged years and again just this past summer. But through it all, James relied on his family for support.As for his mom, James doesn’t blame her for not leaving their dad sooner. Looking back, he says he now understands the situation she was in and the decisions she had to make. “Wow, my mom’s incredible. She really is. She’s the main reason that me, my brother and my sister are who we are. Without her, we wouldn’t be what we are today,” Says James.Today, James is a third year student at the University of Maine, majoring in finance. His sister is a freshman here. Their older brother is happily married. The family remains close.James says he thinks about what happened to his family every day. And, he’s very aware of the stories of sons following in their abusive father’s footsteps. That he guarantees won’t happen to him. “That’s the thing that I pride myself on the most, in terms of what I have learned from this situation, is I’ve learned who I don’t want to to be. I’m not glad it happened, but its something that definitely has made me a better person,” Says James.James’ mother now works with other families who’ve survived domestic abuse situations.