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High school students speak out about domestic abuse

A local organization, Finding Our Voices, is helping high school students know the signs of domestic abuse, especially the signs of mental abuse.

LEWISTON, Maine — An organization called Finding Our Voices is traveling across the state to speak with students about domestic violence and place posters around schools to raise awareness and spread resources.

At Lewiston High School, students spoke out about domestic violence that they witnessed themselves. 

"I've seen a lot of relationships within my friend circle in which, you know, hitting would be crazy, but emotional abuse is just kind of swept under the rug. It doesn't have the same visibility," one student, Emily DiBartolo, said.

It's not something you hear every day at schoolstudents speaking out about domestic abuse.

"There's a lot of students in this school that you can tell have experienced some unhealthy relationship or stuff at home," Emily Robert, a senior, said.

Lewiston High School is one of 130 high schools across Maine that has partnered with the organization. They are striving to remind students that abuse of any kind is not love.  

"I definitely see some students exhibiting some unhealthy relationship patterns with each other and I am hopeful when they see these posters they can recognize what's happening to them and that it's not typical," Rachel Moore, the director of Student Services at LHS, said.

"That this happens to people who are younger than anyone could imagine, darker than anyone could imagine," Patrisha McLean, founder of Finding Our Voices, said. 

McLean said she was in a three-decade-long marriage filled with abuse.

"My boyfriend at 15 was extremely abusive and I didn't realize that it had a name," McLean said.

More high school students need to know that not all abuse is physical. Sometimes, a partner can control you in other ways—the ways that Jersey Cunningham explained she's seen or heard about from others that are signs of early domestic abuse in high school.

"They can't go to certain things at school, have to know where they are at all times, and can't hang out with friends," Cunningham said.

Finding Our Voices is hoping that placing these posters around schools will encourage more students to come forward and get the help they need if they are experiencing domestic violence.

"[It] allows kids to read them and see that some of the stuff might be happening to them and whether they think its domestic abuse or not, it can show them it can be and could get worse," Robert said.

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