FARMINGTON — After a candlelit march down Main Street Monday night, about 30 community members and university students gathered to hear the words of those who deal with domestic violence and some who live with it.
During an annual vigil in observance of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, participants gathered in Meetinghouse Park to walk together to the Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. An act intended to bridge the college and community and broaden the awareness, Safe Voices educator Jessica Dorr, said.
"Homes ought to be safe, families should be safe," UMF President Theo Kalikow said once the group settled in The Landing of the Student Center. "Many parts of our culture tell us this kind of thing is OK. It's not OK. It's sad we have to be at events like this."
Detective David St. Laurent from the Franklin County Sheriff's Department works with domestic and sexual assault cases. There are nearly 150 domestic violence cases handled by this one agency each year, he said.
For many of the cases that he deals with, it boils down to "that's all I know," he said of men who have witnessed their mothers been hurt in similar ways.
"That's what I'm trying to change," St. Laurent said. "It's a community effort not just for police."
"We all need to work together," agreed Chief Ted Blais of the UMF Police Department. "It's so ingrained in our culture. If we all work together, we can take a bite out of domestic violence."
Dorr said the violence reaches beyond the home. Teens and women, ages 16 to 24, are victims as well. One out of three females experience domestic or dating violence by the time they reach UMF.
There are so many options beyond court action, Dorr said. Sometimes it's support shown by those without degrees or those who know all the right words to say.
Sometimes it's not physical but the words and gestures used in families can escalate to the point of domestic violence, one college student shared from her own experiences.
Another related the difficulty of having friends in a troubled dating relationship that she only found out about after they broke up. Relating to people in her home town, she said not every place has an organization like Safe Voices for support.
"Reading about domestic violence is not the same as experiencing it," Dorr said.
Sometimes knowing the signs are not enough she said relating her own story of a relative involved in domestic violent situation. Domestic violence occurs when someone tries to control another in a variety of ways including physical, emotional or financial.
"Don't carry the shame of someone else's actions," she said. "There's nothing you can do and it's nothing you deserve."
Last year Abused Women's Advocacy Project changed its name to Safe Voices, Rebecca Austin, advocate for Safe Voices, said.
The change encourages empowerment, an effort to give back the power and voices to speak, she said.