Each year, approximately half of the homicides in Maine are related to domestic violence, and while most of us are aware that this is an issue that impacts our communities, we don’t always see the many forms domestic violence can take.

Many people automatically think of the dynamics between two spouses or dating partners. We don’t always think about the way that abuse can encompass other family relationships. While child abuse is an acknowledged issue, parents may also be abusive to their adult children, or vice versa. Siblings or extended family members may use abusive behaviors. And when the abuse is between two intimate partners, it still has a ripple effect within their family circle, and other family members can be part of the cycle of violence and abuse.

In addition to the individual directly experiencing the abuse, other family members may become targets of the abuser, intentionally or otherwise.

Perhaps the family member offered shelter and support to a relative in an unsafe situation and are then on the receiving end of harassment and violence from the abuser. The family member may experience stalking from an abuser who is trying to find the victim who has fled their home. On the other side, a family member may be unknowingly manipulated by an abuser into guilting the victim to return, or tricked or coerced into revealing their location.

It’s also not unusual for an individual experiencing abuse from their partner to have experienced abuse from other family members. They may have had an abusive parent growing up, where abuse and power and control were part of their normal. Or perhaps they were abused by a sibling or extended family member as a child, and that early trauma, or their family’s reaction to it, has adversely impacted their sense of self and increased their vulnerability as an adult.

When we think about domestic violence, it is important to remember that it can look like many things and can be present in many types of relationships.


Perpetrators of abuse and violence exist in many types of relationships. The tactics of abuse that they use can look very different and also similar in a familial relationships compared to an intimate partner relationship. People experiencing abuse in a relationship that does not fit the intimate partner pattern may face additional barriers in accessing resources because they may not identify their experience as domestic abuse.

An adult whose sibling is verbally and physically abusive may not realize that domestic violence services could be available to them because they think those services only apply to people who are dating or married, or were in the past. The fact is that domestic violence resource centers work with people experiencing all forms of domestic abuse. Advocacy, safety planning, support groups, shelter, case management and a full range of services are available to assist and support individuals experiencing domestic violence in any form, whether they are choosing to leave or feel that staying is a safer option at the time.

Protection from abuse orders are available through the courts to family or household members, or dating partners. In the last year, approximately 5 percent of the people served by Safe Voices were experiencing domestic abuse by someone other than their intimate partner.

As we all begin to see the various forms and ways domestic violence occurs in our communities, we can become stronger allies and partners to survivors when they reach out for help and support.

Additionally, we may be better able to recognize signs of abuse and offer our assistance to someone in need of help. This shift in our perspectives will aide us all in the work to end domestic violence. Offering assistance can be as easy as letting someone know that services are available, providing a brochure, or offering to sit with them when they call a helpline. Sending the message that they are not alone and that support is available can go a long way toward reducing the sense of isolation and shame that victims of abuse may experience.

The Safe Voices helpline is also available to any concerned party who wants to access information or support on behalf of someone they know.


This year marks the 40th anniversary of Safe Voices offering services to all victims of domestic abuse in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. As we recognize that milestone and look forward to the next 40 years, our hope is that each individual in our communities is aware that there are places to go for help and support, and that someday in the future those services will no longer be needed as our communities work together to end domestic violence.

Until that time comes, we are available 24 hours a day to provide information, support and safety.

Elise Johansen is the executive director of Safe Voices, the domestic violence resource center serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties.

Kelley Glidden is the director of community education for Safe Voices.

Elise Johansen

Kelley Glidden

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