The COVID-19 virus is not the only pandemic the United States is experiencing right now. Another public health crisis has been going on behind the scenes as stay-at-home or work-from-home orders force people to spend more time at home, potentially with their abusers. This often underreported issue is domestic violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NACDV) defines domestic violence as “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse.” Domestic violence can range in severity, but all cases are extremely damaging to those affected.
Each October, the University of Maine hosts the March Against Domestic Violence on campus. People from all different types of organizations are invited to speak at this important event. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual march was canceled and the event went virtual. Instead, it was held on Facebook live on Oct. 7. Speakers included Vice President for Student Life and Inclusive Excellence and Dean of Students Robert Dana, President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Lieutenant Colonel Steven Veves. Veves is the new professor of military science for the Army ROTC Black Bear Battalion. All speakers gave their point of view on how domestic violence affects the community, and what can be done to end this crisis.
Joyce Benton, the president of the Maine Business School MBS Core Community Outreach Organization, hosted the Zoom event. She thanked everyone for taking time out of their day to devote their attention to this important issue. In her opening remarks, she stated that UMaine recognizes it is on Marsh Island, which was land that belonged to the Penobscot Nation. She continued to acknowledge the Wabanaki tribal nations are facing environmental and land ownership conflicts that are ongoing.
“October is dedicated to bringing awareness to domestic violence, and today we take a stand against it,” Benton said. “In Maine alone, a domestic violence assault is reported to law enforcement every 2 hours and 22 minutes… these numbers are eye-opening as domestic violence is known as a silent crime that often goes unrecognized. It can be your neighbor, a close family friend or even a family member that has experienced abuse without you being aware.”
According to her, it is important to be cognizant of the warning signs of domestic violence and understand what to do if you or someone you know needs help. Throughout the event, she continued to introduce speakers and facilitated more discussions.
Next, Dana stressed the importance of gathering for this event. He says he has an “absolute passion” for raising awareness for domestic violence and that he is “very thankful” to be a part of this annual event that is taking place despite unprecedented circumstances.
“Violence against anyone is violence against everyone,” Dana said. “Each one of us has a duty to both have each other’s back, to support each other, to call out acts of indifference and excessive privilege, to call out acts of hostility and violence, to help people that appear to need help [and] to extend our lifelines and our healing vibrations so that people can come to us and get help. Together we can make a difference.”
Dana called on people to join forces and confront the darkness in the world, especially issues like domestic violence that are usually underreported and never talked about openly. Dana wants to reduce the stigma around domestic violence in the local community. Supporting and encouraging others and holding yourself accountable to advocate for this cause is the first step to creating a better environment for those affected by domestic violence.
President Joan Ferrini-Mundy recorded a video of her speech which was played at the Zoom event.
“It’s important that we continue to educate ourselves and have conversations about domestic violence in all its forms,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “We must collaborate… to celebrate survivors and remember victims.” She closed her speech by thanking the UMaine community “for contributing to a campus, state and world in which relationships are positive and healthy.”
Becoming educated about the statistics surrounding domestic violence can help people understand how widespread this experience is, even when people choose not to speak about it publicly. It is impossible to know how many people are actually affected by domestic violence due to the fact that not every case is reported. According to NACDV, “In 2013, 5,487 domestic violence incidents were reported to Maine law enforcement, comprising almost half of assault reports. Many other domestic violence incidents went unreported. Arrests were made in only 17.4% of reported incidents.” Additionally, many homicides in Maine are linked to the issue of domestic violence. The NACDV reports, “In 2013, there were 12 domestic violence homicides in Maine, comprising almost half of all homicides. 46% of domestic violence homicides in Maine from 2012 to 2013 were committed using firearms.”
While there was no actual march, the virtual event still holds weight and was able to articulate the problems surrounding domestic violence and teach people how to become aware of this issue in the local community. It is important that UMaine takes a stance against domestic violence and raises awareness to keep its community safe. You can view the livestream of the seventh annual march against domestic violence here if you would like to learn more about domestic violence and how it impacts people in the local community.
Most importantly, if you or someone you know is being affected by domestic violence, please know that there are resources available to help. Partners For Peace, located in Bangor and Dover-Foxcroft can help with shelter, legal services, emotional support, advocacy and childcare. Please call their 24 hour helpline at 1-800-863-9909 to receive assistance.