Agencies promote resources for abuse victims

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NORWAY — A number of county agencies sent representatives to the Second Congregational Church on Thursday evening to present information regarding domestic violence.

The event was organized by the Oxford County Domestic Violence Task Force. Debbie Dembski, executive director of the Rape Education and Crisis Hotline, said several agencies have spoken about available resources at the task force meetings.

“At one point, someone said, ‘There’s all these great programs and resources. It would be great to let the general community know about it,” Dembski said. “There really are a lot of things, you just have to know where to find them.”

REACH provides a 24-hour hot line for victims of sexual assault and abuse, and provides people to accompany victims to the hospital or help them make statements to police. The organization also does community and school educational programs.

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The task force was formed as a way of providing a community response to domestic violence. Its supporting agencies include REACH, Community Concepts, the Norway Police Department, the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, the Oxford Hills Clergy Association, and the Oxford County Chamber of Commerce.

Deborah Clark, librarian at the Learning Resource Center at Stephens Memorial Hospital, said the library is staffed Monday through Friday and includes books, DVDs, pamphlets, and health education classes.

“A lot of times they’ll come see doctors and then they’ll see me after,” Clark said. “We try to provide resources so they can make informed health care decisions in their lives.”

She said the library includes some books directly related to domestic abuse. She will also direct people to available services if an abused person comes to the library.

Melissa Wakefield, program manager at the home visitation program of Community Concepts, said the agency has more than 40 different programs ranging from case management to housing. She said there is a shelter available for people suffering from domestic abuse as well as transportation services to get people to appointments.

“You don’t want to put the victim in harm’s way any more than they already are,” Wakefield said. “It’s a delicate subject.”

Lt. Tom Harriman of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office has been assigned solely to domestic violence investigations since 2007. His duties include follow-ups with victims and defendants, bail and safety checks, and work with protection from abuse orders.

“It just enhances that coordinated community response to DV issues,” Harriman said of the task force.

Harriman said victims are often reluctant to come forward, and community involvement shows that they have support. He said the task force is looking to expand to other venues for further informational fairs.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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