LEWISTON — “My boyfriend, after our breakup, had decided that it was too much to handle, so he wrapped his hands around my neck and tried to gain back control over his life — by squeezing it out of mine.”
Tieasha Campbell of Lewiston told her story to a crowd of survivors, supporters and community and law enforcement leaders Monday night at the annual Safe Voices Candlelight Vigil at Veterans Memorial Park.
Campbell recalled how, as a child when she left the Safe Voices shelter with her mother, she thought she would never find herself in need of their assistance again decades later.
“I went from being homeless and afraid to housed, empowered and on my way to being college educated,” she said of her eight months in the shelter.
“Being a survivor doesn’t mean you are weak or you asked for it,” Campbell said. “Only through intolerance (of violence), education and community involvement can we put an end to this disease that plagues our society.”
One woman said, “The safest place, besides home, has always been my church.” Through tearful, halting speech, she recounted how she had been abused by a church elder.
“I thank you, the men in uniform, for standing up and for trying to help those who are weak,” she said.
The vigil started at Festival Plaza on Main Street in Auburn and marched across the Longley Memorial Bridge on Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston.
Attendees listened to speeches from Lewiston Police Department Domestic Violence coordinator Desiree Michaud, Androscoggin County Deputy District Attorney Andrew Robinson, Lewiston police Chief Mike Bussier and Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell.
Bussier said, “Law enforcement and community partners need to stay on the forefront of innovative programs and community initiatives to combat domestic violence, including collaborations with groups such as Safe Voices and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
“As a community, we must stand together and continue to deliver the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in our state, in our communities and in our homes.”
Bussier remembered Laudrinha Kubeloso, who was run over and killed along with her unborn child in Lewiston on Sept. 22.
Her boyfriend has been charged with murder in her death.
Crowell said, “Domestic violence is a serious issue that often generates other crime and violence. It affects families, children, neighborhoods, schools and employers.
“As a law enforcement agency, it is one of our most common calls and it is certainly not a private, family matter. We provide domestic violence (responce) training for our officers, and we work to strengthen community efforts to prevent domestic violence,” the chief said.
“We have strong partnerships with organizations like Safe Voices, and we fully support events like the annual Candlelight Vigil,” he said.
Crowell said, “The Auburn Police Department’s Domestic Violence Safety Team helps make survivors aware of the resources that are available in our community. The team provides information regarding protection from abuse orders and works to strengthen cases for prosecution — all with the goal of reducing recurrences.”
Crowell said, “Most offenders are repeat offenders, and our DV Safety Team consistently removes offenders who are in violation of their conditions of arrest.
“Domestic violence calls are challenging for us,” Crowell said. “Police officers know that when we go into a home to arrest an abuser, we look at the child in the room and we know that without interventions, that child may either be abused or become an abuser.
“We must make every effort to safeguard the silent voice behind the door — the child who bears witness to domestic violence,” he said.
Gov. Paul LePage sent a news release to the Lewiston vigil, saying, “While I wish these vigils were not necessary, survivors need healing, as well. It provides family, friends and community the chance to remember and honor those we have lost.
“Maine is considered a safe place,” he said. “However, we do experience senseless tragedies. There have been 10 homicides this year, seven of them domestic violence related. These are not just numbers — these are mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who are gone forever.”
At Veterans Memorial Park, attendees holding candles formed a circle and held a moment of silence to remember victims, survivors and those still living in abusive situations.