October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — the perfect time to reflect on the importance of prevention in breaking the cycle of violence in families and in our communities.

Without addressing the generational cycle of violence and working with young people to encourage healthy behaviors in relationships, we will never achieve lasting change for the future.

At Safe Voices our mission is to support and empower those affected by domestic violence and engage the community in creating social change in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

Social change may take many forms, but one of the most important is the work done by and with young people. Getting information to students in our schools is a key part of our prevention work with youth.

Utilizing age-appropriate messaging, students from kindergarten to college can benefit from programming that helps them explore topics from understanding feelings and healthy boundaries to cyber-safety and teen dating abuse.

It is important to focus not only on what to do if they find themselves or a friend in an abusive relationship, but on how to build positive relationship skills and foster an understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.


Schools have an important role to play in reaching students with this information, but not all youth are accessible through the academic system. Working with youth in non-traditional settings — such as homeless shelters and public libraries — is another way to reach out to children and teens in different community settings. Using media, arts and crafts and interactive activities, youth can explore a variety of issues in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere.

Starting this year, Safe Voices has also tried a new approach to breaking the cycle of violence in families that have experienced abuse. Through the Kids Club and Moms Empowerment program, advocates are able to work simultaneously with non-offending parents and their children.

The goal is to help mothers who have been the victims of violence to build their parenting skills, and also to help their children understand and process the violence they have witnessed and build their own skills around non-violent relationship behaviors.

Teaching children that using violence with others is not OK, and that others using violence with them is not OK, is one of the single most important strategies in the effort to create a culture in which abuse is not acceptable.

Those are just a few examples of the prevention programming conducted by Safe Voices, but there is far more that can be done by everyone in our communities.

We all have a role to play in ending the problem of domestic violence, both in a professional capacity and also in a personal capacity as friends, neighbors, bystanders and members of this community. Safe Voices has many community partners, including teachers, health care providers and law enforcement officers, who incorporate violence prevention programming into their work.


It doesn’t take professional qualifications or special training to help spread the message that domestic violence is not acceptable.

What can people do to play a part in preventing domestic violence? We can all talk to the youths in our lives about the importance of healthy relationships and what respectful behavior looks like.

Anyone can express their concern when they’re uncomfortable with the way someone’s partner is treating them. Especially for young people who may not have extensive relationship experience, it can be difficult to understand that what’s happening in their relationship isn’t healthy and that they don’t deserve to be treated with disrespect or violence.

Having an adult in their life express concern in a non-judgmental way can make a difference. You don’t have to be a domestic violence advocate to let someone know there are resources available; you can even offer to make a phone call with them.

And finally, we can all take part in modeling positive relationship behaviors. By practicing respectful communication, appropriate boundaries and healthy affection, we can set an example for the young people in our lives.

By speaking up when we hear harmful comments or see negative messages about relationships in the media, we can teach youth that violence and abuse is never acceptable.


We all deserve to have safe, healthy, loving relationships. During this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I ask that people think about the youth in your lives and the messages you would like them to hear.

Kelley Glidden is the director of community education for Safe Voices, the domestic violence resource center serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.

Safe Voices will host various public events and awareness campaigns throughout Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties this month.

At 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7, there will be candlelight vigils at Festival Plaza in Auburn, Meetinghouse Park in Farmington, the Kiosk in Norway and the Nancy Smith Memorial Park in Rumford. The public is welcome to attend these events.

For more information on those or other events, contact Kelley Glidden at 795-6744, or visit www.safevoices.org.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact Safe Voices’ confidential 24-hour helpline at 1-800-559-2927.

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