New Hope for Women offers support to people in Waldo county affected by domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, and provides educational resources to assist our communities in creating a safer and healthier future.
|Our response to client needs during and after Maine’s pandemic-driven stay-at-home mandate is noteworthy. During this time, shelters limited capacity in order to reduce exposure to the virus and jails released prisoners early and set bail at low levels to ease over-crowding. One client’s abuser was released from jail without her knowledge.
Staff are aware of the prevalence of – and potential effects from – witnessing domestic violence. 1 in 15 children live in homes in which one of the adults abuses the other adult; 90% witness the abuse. Mary’s abuser assaulted her in front of the children and had a history of domestic violence. Her abuser’s early release from jail came as a complete surprise to Mary; she had no time to prepare.
In her first meeting with staff, Mary was tearful. Staff assisted her to recognize that NHM offices were a safe place to share and assured her of confidentiality. Careful and non-judgemental listening allowed Mary to share. Staff then worked with her to develop a short-term safety plan and discussed how to access child services. Staff also provided educational books and toiletry items to help Mary feel less alone, and assisted her in feeling better about herself. After reviewing the options, Mary chose to complete a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) and was successful in obtaining one. Thus began Mary’s path toward feeling empowered.
Fear of pet abuse is another common reason for staying with one’s abuser. Seventy percent of victims of domestic abuse express fear for their pet’s safety. Abusers may threaten to harm a pet or actually do so in front of the victim. After securing safety for Mary, NHM arranged for her pets to stay at a local animal shelter and obtained a grant to assist with many medical concerns. Mary later explained that her abuser refused care for the animals as another way to exert power.
NHM sheltered Mary for several months (NHM does not own a brick-and-mortar shelter. We collaborate with area lodging sites. If safe to do so we, we house victims near their home community so they can continue working if employed and children can attend the same schools). A case manager gently assisted Mary and helped her recognize that she could support and helped her to identify resources to make permanent housing affordable; they introduced Mary to voucher options and guided her through the process. Mary’s self-confidence continued to blossom.
There were several setbacks along Mary’s arduous journey including barriers to accessing services with limited funds; however, Mary now has a full-time job and her own place. NHM assisted with furnishings and funding a security deposit, and provided career and educational resources through active, supportive, and trauma-informed case management. Mary has since made safe arrangements for the children to see their father. She plans to pursue a career in law enforcement. With education, personal experiences and “grit” to guide her, NHM staff predict success.