The time to speak out against domestic violence is now

By The Editorial Board | Feb 21, 2019

Domestic violence takes many forms. Physical abuse is often part of a pattern of verbal and psychological abuse that leaves a person feeling isolated. Survivors of this abuse talk about partners who have complete control, including control of the money in the household so that it can be very difficult to break out of this pattern.

These and other means of control are shown on the "power and control" wheel published in this edition: coercion, threats, sexual violence, intimidation, minimization, using children, male privilege. Abusers often spy on their partners, monitor their phone and computer use, and discourage them from talking to their friends, family members or coworkers.

The stakes are high. "Of the 37 homicides that were reported from 2016-2017, 16 victims died at the hands of a family member or intimate partner," CentralMaine.com reports. "That rate, 43 percent, was close to where it’s been for more than 10 years."

On a related note, February is "Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month."

"Every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner. It is also known that 3 in 4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence," according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

Domestic violence thrives in secrecy, darkness and silence.

However, we can all play a role in freeing others from this pattern of abuse by talking openly and frankly about the issue and shedding light on that darkness.

Photojournalist Patrisha McLean of Camden deserves a lot of credit for her courage in bringing this discussion out into the community through her multimedia exhibition at the Camden Public Library titled "Finding Our Voices."

The exhibit, which is going on a state tour, tells not only her story, but those of many other survivors. Sharing stories about abuse can be extremely difficult. Even away from an abuser, the fear often remains.

For every woman who was able to share her story through this exhibition, there were many more who could not.

In many cases, even after divorce or separation, abusers will continue to seek control and attempt to bully their former partners into silence.

In McLean's case, her husband has sought to silence not only her, but also The Free Press and the Penobscot Bay Pilot. He responded to news stories on this exhibition with letters from his attorney. You can read the letter to The Free Press and the response from our attorneys in this edition.

We feel this issue is too important to remain silent about it. We have the truth and the First Amendment on our side.

It has become clear in looking at this issue that more needs to be done. Laws must be strengthened to protect victims of domestic abuse. Abusers with money and power should not be able to negotiate lighter or nonexistent sentences compared to other offenders. Police must be given the tools they need to help people in trouble and to separate them from their controlling partners. As we have learned from this story, sometimes a little time away from that influence is what a woman needs to realize she can break away.

For those who need help, there are many great resources at newhopeforwomen.org. This site can be accessed from a computer at a library or school to avoid your use being monitored by an abuser. You may contact the toll-free 24-hour crisis hotline for Midcoast Maine at 1-800-522-3304 and the National DV Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or visit www.thehotline.org.

New Hope for Women’s service area includes four counties (Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo), 73 cities and towns, and six islands with year-round populations.

In 2018, New Hope for Women provided 4,660 hours of direct service to 1,475 individuals. That included 899 hours of legal/court services.

The agency furnished 62 safe home nights, 6,061 direct service volunteer hours, and 2,534 hours of community and youth education to 7,932 individuals.

For more information on for Patrisha McLean’s project, visit findingourvoices.net.

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