‘Hope,’ ‘Justice’ key in name change

14 years ago

‘Hope,’ ‘Justice’

key in name change

By Elna Seabrooks


Staff Writer


When officials of the Battered Women’s Project changed the agency’s name, they didn’t change the mission. That remains the same — responding to the needs of victims of domestic abuse. Now, renamed as the Hope and Justice Project, the multi-service agency still provides victims of domestic violence with safety planning and resources so they can resume a life free of abuse.

Francine Garland Stark, executive director, said the agency’s work goes beyond direct services to victims. “We are striving on two levels. First for each person affected by abuse and violence and second on a community level to change conditions that allow this kind of abuse and violence to go on.”

Stark said the word justice is in the new name because three things need to happen. “The truth needs to be told about what happened. Then, the harm that was caused needs to be repaired. And, finally, the conditions that allowed the injustice to happen need to be changed so that it doesn’t happen again.” The agency’s rationale, according to Stark, was drawn from statements by Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Karan Wotton, criminal justice advocate for the Hope and Justice Project, is a liaison between victims and law enforcement. “Our services are victim-centered,” explained Wotton. She said usually they are women and they may have received information about services in a number of ways — from a law enforcement officer at the scene of a domestic disturbance or at a doctor’s office, a grocery store or the police station.

Domestic Violence Investigator Lawrence Goff of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department works in conjunction with the Hope and Justice Project. “Karan is basically my go-to person after a domestic violence situation that warrants further investigation,” said Goff.

He explained that the woman could have been a victim of a domestic violence assault in a situation where it hadn’t been brought to the police’s attention yet. “If it’s warranted, charges would be brought against the perpetrator.”

Goff also gives the agency’s business cards to victims who may not want to talk to anybody at the time because of what they have just experienced. But, he said, it’s a resource for them at another point in time.

Domestic abuse and violence cross all class and socio-economic boundaries from working, professional women to stay-at-home mothers. “It affects all classes. There are no boundaries,” said Jamie Cleary, southern Aroostook outreach advocate for the Hope and Justice Project. Cleary said sometimes the violence and abuse is not physical. “It can be verbal and emotional abuse like name calling or threats of taking the children away.”

What might surprise some is that Cleary explained sexual abuse can happen inside a marriage. It occurs, she said, when a husband forces a wife to engage in sex or in certain acts against the wife’s will.

The staff at the Hope and Justice Project discuss safety planning with every victim and what to do when things get out of control. Leaving can be the most dangerous time and protection orders don’t work in every case. “Sometimes the window of opportunity is only minutes in a dangerous situation,” Goff stated.

The program is “trying to reach out to faith communities and collaborate with them because victims are in churches, and the staff is available to do training,” said Wotton.

She also said that monetary donations are being accepted because some women go to one of the three area shelters with nothing other than their children and the clothes on their back. They may have no resources unless it comes from the community, according to Wotton. However, she added, the shelter is a last resort.

For more information, to arrange training or to get information about services, the 24-hour hotline number is (800) 439-2323.