October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this year the statewide theme is “Take Action Maine,” which provides a perfect opportunity to consider the ways that people can move beyond awareness to action.

Here in Maine, we’ve done a great job of building awareness of domestic violence as an issue that impacts our communities; the next step is taking action to create the kind of changes that will bring an end to domestic violence. The following are examples of some easy ways for all of us to take action.

Speak up. There are many ways to use your voice. Speaking up can mean checking in with someone you’re concerned about — perhaps a co-worker or friend who has mentioned that their partner uses controlling behaviors, isolates them, or puts them down. It can mean saying something when you hear people joking about or minimizing the impact of domestic violence. Speaking up can be as simple as starting conversations about the issue and the way our culture views violence, or posting and sharing messages and news about the issue on your social media.

Schedule a training. Many people hesitate to speak up because they don’t feel they know enough about domestic violence and are afraid to say the wrong thing. One easy action to take to address that is to schedule a training on the topic. Safe Voices, and other domestic violence resource centers in Maine, provide trainings on request on a variety of topics related to domestic violence. You can contact us to schedule someone to come present to your school, workplace, or community group.

Create a safe space. People experiencing domestic violence often think twice about disclosing their experiences if they aren’t sure of the response they’ll receive. They may be afraid that the person they are disclosing to won’t understand, or will blame them for what is happening. There are ways to indicate that your space is safe for such disclosures. For example, in an office or business setting you might display posters or have brochures for services visible. On a personal level, you can let friends, family and co-workers know that the issue matters to you.

Be familiar with your local resources. Know what your community offers for resources. You don’t need to be an expert on domestic violence to direct someone to services that can help them stay safe. Safe Voices has services available to assist those seeking support and safety. As the domestic violence resource center for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford Counties, Safe Voices offers a comprehensive range of domestic violence services, including a 24-hour helpline (1-800-559-2927), safety planning and court advocacy, community case management, emergency shelter, transitional housing, community education, prevention programming and a certified batterers intervention program. Anyone can request brochures to keep on hand to share as needed.

Get involved. There are lots of ways to get involved with this issue in your community. Domestic violence resource centers are always seeking volunteers for everything from staffing helplines to assisting with tasks around the office. There are events throughout the year that you can attend to show your support. Donations of money or items (such as clothing, toiletries and household goods) go a long way toward providing services and assisting individuals who are starting over after leaving an abusive situation.

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. But we can’t do this work alone. It takes a community working together, and all of us as individuals deciding to take action, to shift our culture to create a place where violence of any sort is never tolerated, and everyone can feel safe in their homes.

Each of us can contribute in our own way, and if we are all committed to taking even one action, we’ll see the changes taking place around us. This October, Safe Voices would like to invite people to explore ways to take action and be part of a community effort to end domestic violence.

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

Kelley Glidden

Kelley Glidden

For more information on Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities, visit www.safevoices.org or contact Kelley Glidden at 795-6744.

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