The national rates of domestic violence are staggering – nearly one in four women in the US will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime – and statistics in Maine are equally sobering. According to the council’s website, on average 40-55 percent of all homicides in Maine are domestic violence-related. In 2012, 47 percent of all assaults reported to Maine law enforcement were related to domestic violence. While domestic violence can affect individuals of all genders, 85 percent of victims are women.
However, despite its prevalence and immediacy, domestic violence remains difficult to discuss. Too often, conversations about family and relationship violence are stifled by shame and social stigma, a reluctance to meddle in ‘private’ affairs, concerns for personal safety, and fears of retribution.
The council’s Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative was inspired by its Literature & Medicine program and developed in partnership with members of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV). The council developed a facilitated reading and discussion program that could begin to address some of the major difficulties facing organizations and individuals who encounter domestic violence in their professional lives, such as:
- The need for opportunities that allow professionals to connect with one another across organizations, build relationships, and talk about the challenges inherent in this work
- The need for more outlets for self care and more structured spaces to talk about the difficult issues they face so they can perform at their best, stay in their professions, and better help those they serve.
In addition, the council worked with Outside the Wire, a nationally acclaimed social impact company, to develop a public humanities event to spark public discussions of this critical issue using scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire.
The reading and discussion groups take place around Maine each year and are open only to those working in domestic violence fields, such as agency staff, law enforcement, school counselors, or medical staff. The four-part sessions take place during the Fall, Spring, and Winter at five different locations around the state.