This October, New Hope Midcoast will join other advocates across the state to recognize Domestic Violence Action Month (DVAM). For the last 35 years, the goal of Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been just that – raising awareness about domestic violence, its prevalence within our community, and how it impacts survivors, their families, and society as a whole. Domestic Violence Action Month signifies that now, in addition to awareness, we believe it’s important to equip people with tools focused on action through prevention, response, and community education.

We hope that in this month, as well as throughout the year, we can share information about the services we provide and the ways in which communities and individuals can best support survivors in their lives. Today, New Hope Midcoast recognizes DVAM in several ways: providing important education to our communities about safe and respectful relationships, mourning the loss of those killed by their abusers, and celebrating survivor resilience by honoring the stories they share.

From October 2021 to October 2022, there have been six domestic violence related homicides in the state of Maine. We join the families of these victims in remembering their lives and mourning their loss. In the past twenty years, over 200 Mainers have been murdered by their partners or family members.

In October 2002, New Hope Midcoast (then New Hope for Women) created a memorial called “Empty Place at the Table” to honor victims of domestic violence homicide. Inspired by an exhibit by the same name in Lackawanna County, Pa., “Empty Place at the Table” is a display in the form of a dinner table. Each place setting at the table is donated by family members of a domestic violence homicide victim and signifies the empty place left at their tables as a result of their loss.

Each October, New Hope Midcoast recreates the “Empty Place at the Table” memorial for community members to contemplate the impact of domestic violence and, more specifically, domestic violence homicide on our neighborhoods and towns. This year, “Empty Place at the Table” will be on display at Skidompha Library in Damariscotta on Oct. 11 and at Rockport Library on Oct. 26. We encourage members of the community to visit the exhibit and learn about the lives of the victims as shared by their family members.

Another focus of New Hope Midcoast’s Domestic Violence Action Month is to incorporate teen dating violence as part of larger conversations about domestic abuse. In an effort to stop dating violence and abuse before it begins, we’ll help teens understand what safe and respectful relationships are like and how to recognize dating violence when it happens.

New Hope Midcoast’s youth education team will set up informational tables featuring young adult books that depict either teen dating violence or relationships that are safe and respectful, as well as materials on youth and teen-focused services New Hope Midcoast provides in partnership with local schools. These displays can be found throughout the month of October at Patten Free Library in Bath, Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, Rockport Library, and Belfast Free Library.

On Oct. 12 at 3 p.m. at Skidompha Library and on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at Rockport Library, our youth educator will give a youth-focused presentation entitled “Violent Language and Romanticized Abuse in Young Adult Literature.” This event will explore where violent language comes from, and the ways young adult literature often depicts relationships built on control, jealousy, and the implementation of rigid gender roles.

Ultimately, the goal of Domestic Violence Action Month is to engage our larger community in working with survivors and advocates to build a society one day where domestic abuse, along with other forms of violence and oppression, no longer exists. For more information about domestic abuse and to learn more about how you can help end domestic abuse and support survivors, visit newhopemidcoast.org.

By: Allison Fortin, Hillary Waterman, and Lori Loftin

Advocates from New Hope Midcoast can be reached 24/7 via the helpline: 1-800-522-3304. 

New Hope Midcoast offers support to people in Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties affected by domestic and dating violence and provides educational resources to assist our communities in creating a safer and healthier future.