Rebecca Austin will take over as Executive Director of Safe Voices in June, when Elise Johansen will step down.

FARMINGTON — Safe Voices, a private non-profit organization that provides advocacy for survivors of domestic abuse and violence, sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties, announced on Wednesday, April 24, that Director of Programs Rebecca Austin will be replacing Elise Johansen as executive director.

Johansen will be stepping down from the role on Monday, June 3, after nearly nine years with the organization. Since joining the organization in 2015, her accomplishments include opening the state’s first and only emergency safe house program for survivors of sex trafficking and the state’s first pet-friendly shelter.

In a press release, Safe Voices shared that Austin is “uniquely positioned to bring [the organization] forward through several key in-progress projects as well as the agency’s goals for the future.”

Austin joined the organization in 2009 as Rural Outreach Advocate in Franklin County. In this role she oversaw the development, implementation, and evaluation of advocacy, education, and offender accountability programming.

Austin is a graduate of the University of Maine at Farmington, where she resides with her family. In an interview with The Franklin Journal, she talked about what motivates her efforts in the movement to end domestic abuse and violence.

In her personal life, she has seen firsthand the impact abuse and violence can have on people. Before she joined Safe Voices, she was not aware of the existence of organizations that advocated for survivors of domestic abuse.


“I remember when I was first interviewing for the job as an advocate,” Austin shared. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my gosh, how has this existed, and I didn’t know about it’, and very quickly after starting in that advocacy role, I knew that this was what I wanted to do and what I was meant to do.”

Austin shared that it was a very special feeling advocating for the community she also lived in, stating it was a “really important piece” to her.

Having been with Safe Voice for 15 years, Austin reflected on what fueled her spirit for advocacy, stating that it was the resiliency of the survivors that invigorated her efforts with the organization.

“Being able to support someone and seeing that tremendous work is really an honor,” Austin said. “We talk about that at Safe Voices all the time, that it’s an honor to be able to support survivors, even when the work is hard.”

She has served for many years as a member of the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and as chair of the Maine Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Legislative Commission.

Austin said that during her time in her various roles, she has put a lot of effort into helping the organization’s community-based advocacy work to lean into what they call Coordinated Community Response.

She explained that in the domestic violence movement, Coordinated Community Response is a model that recognizes domestic violence resource centers are only one piece of the puzzle for survivors, and other community partners, such as sexual assault prevention agencies, response services, law enforcement, and more, should be encouraged to work together to help a survivor.

“We need all of our community partners to be working alongside us to really make the change that we want to see in our communities,” she said.

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