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This week’s edition!

Raising awareness of domestic violence

Guest Column

By Senator Nate Libby

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 21, the City of Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of Nate Libby)

The COVID-19 pandemic has created both public health and economic crises. It has impacted nearly every facet of our lives, from how we do our jobs and how children learn, to how we run errands. Unfortunately, experts say that the pandemic has also led to an increase in reports of domestic violence. In recognition of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I want to share some resources that are available, and encourage all of us to continue to look out for our neighbors and loved ones.

We want to believe that everyone we know is always safe and welcomed in their own home; we also want to believe that we ourselves would never fall into an abusive situation. But the sad truth is domestic violence victims can be any age, gender, race, or religion, and come from any economic background. Safe Voices, based in Auburn, reports that one in four women and one in seven men in the U.S. experience some form of violence at the hands of a partner at some point in their lives. Domestic abuse can involve physical and sexual violence, but also emotional, psychological and financial abuse. Victims are often manipulated into doubting their own experiences and blaming themselves, and can have a hard time recognizing and admitting that what they’re experiencing is abuse. 

The good news is that there are many organizations and individuals available to help. For example, Safe Voices operates shelters and other support services for people in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. They run a 24-hour hotline, available at 1-800-559-2927, as well as an online chat available 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can find these and other vital resources on their website: www.SafeVoices.org. You can also find information about Safe Voices’ Feed-a-Family and Adopt-A-Family programs, which help families affected by domestic violence by making sure they have a complete turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and gifts for the holidays. If you’d like to contribute to either program, please sign up by Nov. 1. 

There are other ways we can help those in need, too. Abusers often try to isolate their victims from their support network, such as friends and family, which means staying connected with loved ones who might be at-risk can literally be life-saving. Now, when it’s so easy to feel isolated, please stay in touch with and check in on your neighbors, friends and family. If someone you know is experiencing abuse, support them by listening and by reassuring them that you believe them and that they’re not responsible for their abuser’s actions. However, don’t pressure them to make a move, such as leaving or reporting violence to the police, before they’re ready. Domestic violence experts tell us that leaving can be the most dangerous time for a victim, so having a safe plan in place is critical.

In the meantime, we should all be doing our part to raise awareness of domestic violence. A big part of that is making sure we’re having open and honest conversations about what healthy relationships look like. Young people are at an especially high risk for domestic violence — women age 18-24 are most likely to be the victims of domestic abuse — and knowing what a respectful, equitable, loving relationship looks like can help people avoid abusive situations or reach out for help if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.

It’s on all of us to look out for our neighbors and loved ones, especially now. If you or someone you know needs help connecting with resources, I urge you to contact Save Voices. You can also contact me at Nathan.Libby@legislature.maine.gov or call me at (207) 713-8449.Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 21, which comprises the City of Lewiston

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