AUGUSTA, Maine — On Tuesday in Augusta, dozens of people huddled together on the stairs in the Hall of Flags, wearing different hues of purple. In front of them, a handful of speakers filed back and forth to a podium with a microphone, touching on a difficult issue: domestic violence.
The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence released its first-ever Impact Report on May 23, highlighting ways the state addressed domestic abuse and violence in 2022 and acknowledging the work still to be done. The executive director of the MCEDV, Francine Garland Stark, said she thinks this was an important step for the coalition to take.
"The work that we do is really invisible. We're always behind the scenes. We're working at the policy table. We're talking to people," Stark said.
The Impact Report highlights a few major improvements to the response to domestic violence in our state as of last year, including:
- Per a 2018 statute, abusers are now typically referred to certified domestic violence intervention programs for treatment, rather than anger management or counseling. The state is also providing some funds to help families meet those expenses, if they can't.
- The MCEDV, Maine's law enforcement community, and Maine Judicial Branch have been working together closely to improve communication with survivors about whether a defendant in a protection from abuse case has relinquished his or her weapon to law enforcement.
- In 2022, MCEDV received $526,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to launch a Rapid Rehousing Program in Maine. It provides 3-12 months of rental assistance to survivors who may be in unstable situations.
- $172,882 was distributed statewide in 2022 through the Liberation Fund, helping survivors access the resources and support they need to live a life free of domestic violence.
This report indicates 14,199 people received help from Maine's regional domestic violence resource centers in 2022. Of them, 12,193 people were directly experiencing abuse and violence, and 42 percent of people had at least one child in the home.
Maine Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese said in 2022, there were 30 homicides in Maine, and 16 were related to domestic violence. She said recently, there have been greater efforts among all sectors to join forces in addressing this issue.
"The partnerships and collaboration have improved over the years," Marchese said. "Now, the domestic violence homicide review panel works very closely with the MCEDV and the commission, with everyone working toward a similar goal of helping people."
Pam Morin is the executive director of the Family Violence Project after first using its services when she was leaving an abusive relationship decades ago.
"I was a young mother with four little children. I was leaving my marriage, and I ended up needing to go into shelter," Morin said, later adding, "There was a lot of jealousy. There was a lot of monitoring everything that I did, monitoring the clothes that I wore. When children started to come along, they were occasions where he would use the children as leverage."
Morin said her experience in deciding to leave her husband contained a lot of "back and forth," but she ended up doing so when she began to fear for her and her children's lives.
"It's hard to make that final decision," Morin said.
Advocates said one of the most important steps in this conversation is ending the decades-old stigma that still exists in some cases, as well as treating the people who commit domestic abuse and violence.
"They really have to be able to confront the fact that they aren't the center of the universe, and that, in fact, their partner is not required to obey them," Stark said. "They don't have the right to place people in fear in order to get what they want."
You can see the Fall 2022 Impact Report here.