There is a way out for the abused

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Spring is here, and Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Now is the time to thank all the mothers in our lives, to acknowledge the care and love they give us every day.

For many, Mom was the one who fed us, nursed our colds, and taught us right from wrong. She was our window to the world, and she helped make us civilized members of society.

But for many women who have experienced domestic violence, Mother’s Day is a reminder of incredible struggle and determination.

Family violence is a reality here in Androscoggin County. In 2008, two of Maine’s 20 domestic homicides occurred in Lewiston and Auburn. Nationally, anywhere from 3.3 to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence every year.

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Often, these mothers face a critical double bind: If they leave, they risk poverty or further violence (or death) from their abusers; if they stay, they continue to expose themselves and their children to abuse.

In 2009 alone, the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project provided shelter to 69 women and 52 children.

Leaving is the most dangerous time for anyone who is experiencing abuse. On average it takes victims seven or eight attempts to leave before they are successful. All of the challenges of leaving — money, housing, emotional trauma — are magnified for mothers with children.

When we talk about abuse, we tend to focus on the struggle and fear and violence. But just as winter has given way to spring, there is life after the violence.

In its 32-year history, AWAP has worked with thousands of mothers. Many have gone on to leave their abusers and find safety for themselves and their children. They have become more involved in their communities, continued their educations, and even embarked on new careers.

In its shelter, AWAP makes every effort to help both moms and children get the care and support they need in this time of upheaval. Our support groups give women a space to express themselves and share with others who understand what they have been through and, in some cases, are still surviving.

So, this Mother’s Day, let us embrace those mothers who have escaped abuse and remember the mothers still persevering in violent homes.

Victoria Williams is the community educator for the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project.

What: AWAP’s Spring Walk

When: 10 a.m., Saturday, May 8

Where: Simard-Payne Police Memorial Park

All mothers who attend will receive a special acknowledgement. For more information, call Lana Whittemore at 795-6744. For immediate assistance, contact the 24 hour helpline at 1-800-559-2927.

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