Domestic violence is a community issue, educator says; presentation at Mechanic Falls Town Office on Tuesday

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MECHANIC FALLS—Hosting the upcoming discussion on domestic violence is one way Safe Voices Community Educator for Androscoggin County Julia Teitel helps shed light on what she calls a “community issue” by not keeping the once taboo subject behind closed doors.

Teitel will be on hand from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Council Room at the Mechanic Falls Town Office, 108 Lewiston St., for the program hosted by the Mechanic Falls Public Library. Safe Voices is a domestic violence advocacy, resource and educational organization that serves Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties.

Teitel said last week that she will talk about the ins and outs of domestic violence, the different forms it could take and why it’s a community issue.

“[It’s] not something that ought to be a terrible thing behind closed doors,” she said, adding she’ll address “why it’s so endemic to so many people around.”

Teitel said her discussion will also touch on how to address domestic violence issues with friends and loved ones for those concerned and how to keep each other safe.

“It’s not at all an R-rated talk but I would recommend it for people 14 and older,” she said.

Teitel shared some startling statistics about domestic violence in Maine, which she defined as incidents involving intimate partners and family members. Every 90 minutes, a domestic assault is reported somewhere in the state. In 2013, there were 6,000 domestic assaults recorded by police, according to data from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, which is comprised of nine organizations. She added the coalition’s hotline answers roughly 40,000 calls annually about domestic violence.

“It’s worth noting it’s very, very under reported,” Teitel said about domestic violence.

More locally, Oxford County Community Educator Diane Gallagher said by email that for fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2014, Safe Voices served 302 people in Oxford County, tallying 537 advocacy hours. In 2013, there were 494 domestic violence complaints in the county, which was up 29 incidents from the year before.

Typically, 45 percent to 50 percent of the homicides in Maine happen as a result of domestic violence, Teitel said. She believes that average will be higher for 2014 since there were a slew of murder-suicides, some of which involved children. She estimated that domestic violence will make up 60 percent of last year’s homicides. According to Gallagher, in 2013, there were 24 homicides in Maine, with 11 that were domestic violence related.

Maine stands out for an even more under reported form of domestic violence where women are the abusers.

“Everywhere I look there’s a slightly higher rate of females abusing men than the national average in Maine,” Teitel said, adding this form makes up about 20 percent of cases reported in the state. She noted she’s unsure why this is. “The reason it’s so tricky with these statistics because it’s all based around police received calls. You can only measure what’s reported. As under reported as it is when it comes to female victims and male abusers, it’s way more under reported when it’s the other way around.”

Safe Voices’ confidentially located shelter in Androscoggin County works with between 55 and 60 families annually, and there is an uptick in domestic violence during the winter, Teitel said. According to Oxford County jail logs, there were seven people arrested for some form of domestic violence during the first two weeks of January.

“When people, through weather and what have you, are confined in a smallish space for [long] periods of time that can certainly acerbate the situation,” she said, noting drugs and alcohol can’t directly cause domestic violence but are considered to be factors. “Maine has so many rural pockets and it’s not easy to get around. It can create not just social but geographic isolation, which can definitely up the danger factor.”

Anyone in need of domestic violence help can call the free and confidential Safe Voices 24/7 hotline at 800-559-2927 or visit www.safevoices.org.

For more information about the upcoming discussion, call the Mechanic Falls Public Library at 345-9450, email ccushing@mechanicfalls.lib.me.us or visit the library.

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