In 2012, Maine police recorded 5,593 domestic assaults. Half of Maine’s homicides are domestic violence-related. It is not getting any better.

Statistics from the Maine Department of Public Safety show that, for the second straight year, domestic violence police reports increased by 4.5 percent.

Safe Voices, our local domestic violence agency, served 6,095 people, provided shelter to 144 clients, and provided 13,000 advocacy hours that included going to court with victims 901 times.

In a 2012 state-wide survey conducted by domestic violence agencies, 74.9 percent of callers said they had been strangled.

In 2013, 447 people received services from the tri-county Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services. Those services included a helpline, support groups, accompaniment to the hospital or police department after a sexual assault, drop-in programs in the high schools, and assistance/accompaniment with criminal and civil court processes.

Both men and women are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, which can include physical, economic, sexual or psychological oppression. The statistics, however, are staggering for women.

According to the United Nations, one in three women worldwide will be beaten or raped in her lifetime — that is one billion women at risk for gender-based violence. The percentage holds true in Maine, as nearly one-third of Maine women say they have been victims of rape or attempted rape.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, the international “One Billion Rising” project organized women worldwide to stand, dance and raise their voices for change. Our agencies, along with United Somali Women of Maine, spearheaded a day of action here.

This year “One Billion Rising” escalated the campaign, calling women and men everywhere to “RISE, RELEASE, DANCE, and demand JUSTICE!” In response, we have expanded our efforts into a multi-phase campaign to raise awareness about violence against women.

We have two goals: Build an ongoing network of support and advocacy around the issue; and lead people to action steps going forward that will promote long-term change.

The campaign is called L A Women Rising. Our image is a hand, with purple (the color for domestic violence) and teal (for sexual assault). Together they suggest bruises, both those that are visible and those that are on the hearts and souls of survivors.

The image has been printed in the Sun Journal and posted other places recently. It will keep appearing around town in coming weeks. In today’s paper, it is part of a large advertisement with four action steps and contact information.

Domestic violence and sexual assault impact the entire life of anyone violated by it. Here is one story from a woman at The Center for Wisdom’s Women:

Yelling, throwing things, name calling, and the big belt were part of my childhood. When I entered relationships, some of those same things, plus more, happened. I accepted it because I didn’t think I was worth much and thought it was “normal.”

Finally, ending up in the hospital bruised and stitched, I encountered the Abused Women’s Shelter. In classes I was told what abuse was, and that I wasn’t the one who caused it. I was taught human love and compassion and learned that I mattered.

To this day, the words “shut up” send ripples down my back. I hear: “You don’t matter. You are not important enough to listen to. Go away.”

Abuse is hidden behind closed doors because of shame and threats. My sister was murdered by someone she knew. The people who care about us are not supposed to abuse us.

My hope is that every woman suffering behind closed doors has the courage to open the door and come out. You are not alone.

It is time to stop the silence and demand an end to the plague of domestic violence and sexual assault. “Rise Up” and join the campaign.

Our firm belief and commitment, as executive directors of agencies that encounter people daily who are affected by these devastating crimes, is that we will make a bigger difference together than alone.

We all hold the power to stop violence in our hands. We encourage the public to help.

Klara Tammany is executive director of The Center for Wisdom’s Women; Marty McIntyre is executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services; Jane Morrison is executive director of Safe Voices; Kathy Durgin-Leighton is executive director of the YWCA of Central Maine.

To learn more about L A Women Rising and what individuals can do, go to the L A Women Rising Facebook page, then “like” and share it.

will hold an “It’s No Joke!” rally at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1, at the Lewiston Public Library.

For more information, go to:

The Center for Wisdom’s Women: wisdomswomen.org

Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services: sapars.org

Safe Voices: safevoices.org

YWCA of Central Maine: ywcamaine.org


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