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Domestic violence: you can’t open the newspaper, turn on the radio, or go online these days without encountering a story about spousal, partner, or child abuse. The story may be the featured “lead” story or could be in the entertainment or sports sections, or the commentary. Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence recently said that the current discussion is, “in my 40 years, the largest and most public discussion I've ever seen." What is going on? And where does our community stand in this large public discussion?
Domestic violence is not new, of course, but our response to it is relatively recent. In Maine, laws against spousal abuse were passed in the 1980’s and continue to be refined and updated. At some point in the early 1980’s we as a society began to come to general agreement that crimes against family members and loved ones should be treated in a similar manner to other similar crimes; regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, the crime is something which we as a society will not condone. An intimate relationship may be personal and private; the crime is not. This fairly simple message gets complicated when the victim asks for leniency for the perpetrator, out of fear or love or hope, or a combination of all and more. The victim deserves our support, but accountability for the perpetrator must be part of our community’s response: for the sake of all involved and because we believe it to be just and appropriate.
In Hancock and Washington Counties, we are developing responses to violent and potentially lethal crime that use all of the information at hand, not relying solely on the victim. Coordinated work between domestic violence advocates, community providers, law enforcement, court personnel, healthcare providers, child protective workers, etc., can help create a safer community for all of us.
In the greater Ellsworth area, all of our agencies have taken a public stand against domestic violence, and encourage everyone in our area to do the same. We are committed to supporting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and dating violence and to holding perpetrators accountable for their behavior. Please join this effort in the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and speak out against abuse and violence in the home. All members of a family deserve to live in peace and safety, to have autonomy and basic human rights. For more information on how to help or how to receive help, call Next Step at 1-800-315-5579.