Safe Voices, previously known as the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project, marks its 40th anniversary this year. The agency, which works to empower those affected by domestic violence in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin Counties, was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1977, prompted by a critical need in the area for emergency shelter for abused women and their children.
At that time, with no low-income housing or federal or state monies earmarked to address the effects of domestic violence, local communities struggled to meet the needs of battered women and children who were not safe. When four women from Androscoggin County went to Massachusetts to learn about that state’s efforts to help battered women, Safe Voices was born from their efforts as two local families began accepting women into their homes.
In 1979, due in part to an act to appropriate funds for emergency shelters and services for victims of domestic violence, Safe Voices opened an emergency shelter with a total of four staff. Over the years, the shelter has changed location numerous times, once after burning down in a fire. Today, Safe Voices continues to operate the only shelter and support services for battered women in the three-county region.
Since its inception, Safe Voices has had a four-fold mission: to provide emergency and support services to victims of domestic violence; to promote ways to foster healthy relationships; to educate the community about the seriousness and prevalence of this crime; and to work toward social change so that communities no longer tolerate this abuse.
This mission has developed into a strong safety net for victims of domestic abuse seeking support, assistance, and a life free from the threat of further abuse. In addition to emergency shelter, Safe Voices has a network of community-based offices in Lewiston, Norway-South Paris, Farmington and Rumford that provide one-on-one support, group support, children’s services, information and referral, court advocacy, transportation and accommodation, community education and professional training.
To highlight the work that has been done and discuss what lies ahead, Safe Voices will host a press conference this week that will feature domestic abuse survivors and community leaders who have helped in the work to end domestic violence.
Speakers confirmed to date include Safe Voices Executive Director Elise Johansen, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services Executive Director Marty McIntyre, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence Executive Director Francine Stark, Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonte, and the chiefs of the Lewiston, Mexico, and Farmington Police Departments. A calendar of events scheduled for 2017 to celebrate the work of the agency over the past 40 years will be distributed.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, call Safe Voices’ 24-hour helpline at 1-800-559-2927. For more information about Safe Voices, see www.safevoices.org.