A dozen people take part Wednesday evening in the 9th annual River Valley Walk to End Domestic Violence, a two-mile stretch from Hosmer Field to the American Legion and back. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — What does it mean to be safe?

With that as the theme of this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the head of the resource center for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties asked participants Wednesday in the ninth annual River Valley Walk to End Domestic Violence to think about that question.

“I would encourage you while you’re walking tonight to think about that for yourself, to think about that for your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues, and what you could bring into your community in the next 12 months that would create a better sense of safety,” Elise Johansen, executive director of Safe Voices told the dozen people who walked from Hosmer Field to the American Legion Hall and back.

“And if you yourself are in need of safety and support, I would encourage you to reach out to us whenever you need us,” she said.

“This work is our work for 12 months out of the year, and has been for 45 years,” Johansen said.

Police Chief Tony Milligan said, “There are 10 million cases of domestic violence annually. Right here in our community in Rumford, we’ve already responded to close to 200 domestic violence incidents. We take it very seriously. It’s something that you have to talk about with your friends, your neighbors, your family. You can’t bury your head in the sand.”

According to Milligan, from July 1, 2020, to June 30 this year, the department responded to 192 domestic violence calls. Sixteen of those resulted in arrests. The number of calls has risen from 149 in fiscal year 2017-18, to 187 in 2018-19, to 189 in 2019-20, he said.

“I just think us getting together and going for this walk, people say ‘What is going on? What’s with the purple?'” Milligan said. “And that’s going to start spreading and that’s how you get the engagement, and that’s how you get the word out.”

Town Manager Stacy Carter said officials want to make sure the community knows it’s important to bring awareness to the issue.

“This is the month that we gather to do it,” he said. “Make sure that we continue to spread the word, 12 months out of the year. But we’ll show the community on our walk, the purple and the togetherness, and we’ll continue to fight the fight.”

Diane Gallagher, Safe Voices educator and youth advocate, said, “Today, when I was driving over here, I was thinking about all the evolutions… how we had signs around and a scavenger hunt where people would find out facts. But we kept going and I appreciate the people going more than once. It’s really great to see you again.”

Safe Voices offers a comprehensive range of services, including a 24-hour helpline, safety planning and court advocacy, community case management, emergency shelter, transitional housing, community education, prevention programming and a certified batterers intervention program.

Under Maine State Law, police are required to:

• stay with victim until they believe you are out to danger.
• help the victim get medical attention.
• arrest someone who has violated a protection order or committed a domestic violence offense.

Safe Voices can be reached at 369-0750 in Rumford, 795-6744 in Lewiston, 778-6107 in Farmington) and 743-5806 in Norway.


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