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Crowd honors domestic violence survivors, remembers victims

HOULTON, Maine — Close to 50 people gathered at the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians gymnasium on Wednesday evening to honor the survivors of domestic violence and mourn those who have been lost.

The 21st annual event was held in recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and included speakers, an annual candlelight vigil and a public supper. It was organized by the Maliseet Domestic and Sexual Violence and Advocacy Center.

Four out of 5 Native American women experience violence in their lives, according to a report by the National Congress of American Indians.

Jessica Huff, program director/advocate for the Maliseet Domestic and Sexual Violence Advocacy Center, said the mission of the agency is to effect change within the tribal community, where equality, respect and nonviolence become cornerstones of all relationships.

“This is a very special event for us and the community,” she said. “Our advocacy started with just a small staff offering core services, and through tribal leadership and core funding opportunities, we have expanded to assist those impacted by domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking.”

She stressed the need for the center to remain present in the community and to continuously let people know the resources that are available to them.

Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca, who was the featured speaker for the evening, offered statistics on domestic and sexual violence, saying that each year, 1 in 15 children live in homes in which one of the parents or the parent’s partner abuses the other adult. He added that 90 percent of such children are eyewitnesses to the violence, according to the Maine Coalition To End Domestic Violence.

He noted that all children who live with intimate partner violence are impacted in different ways.

“The Houlton Police Department takes domestic violence and sexual violence very seriously,” he said. “In fact, there is a zero tolerance policy.”

He stressed the need for continued public education and training for those who deal with the victims.

The event also featured a story from a domestic violence survivor, who said that her abusive partner isolated her from her friends and family. Although her family, friends, police and even some of her doctors suspected that she was being abused, she said that she refused to admit it to them.

She stated that after one incident of abuse, she called her parents for assistance, but she remained in the relationship after her partner promised her that he would change.

“At the time, I did not know the term domestic violence,” she said. “I know it now … it took me many years to ask for help. My wish today is that if you know someone or are that someone who is being abused, know that you are not alone. There is help out there.”

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