The lead headline on the front page of the July 6 Portland Press Herald, “Four dead in Madison shootings,” prompted me to sit down and write to the victims of domestic violence. My soul said, “There but for the grace of God go I,” as I read the article. It happens to me every time I read about another tragic incident of domestic violence.

I didn’t even realize that I had been a victim of domestic violence. I would write in my journal that “it” happened again. It wasn’t until I left an abusive 43-year marriage that I learned that “it” was domestic violence.

I was willing to have “peace” at any cost in order to maintain the charade of the perfect Catholic middle-class professional family. I was locked in fear, control and denial, hoping each incident would be the last. No one suspected the hell on earth my family was living with; they were shocked when I left my husband at the age of 65.

At 77, I have emerged as the face and voice of a survivor of domestic violence who wants to speak out and let others know that they don’t deserve abuse and violence.

Recently, I was the keynote speaker for the Family Crisis Services Gala. I was honored and humbled to be asked. In my heart, I knew I needed to go beyond the gala and tell my story.

My deepest concerns are how to reach victims and let you know that help is out there: Call Family Crisis Services‘ 24-hour hotline at 1-800-537-6066. You are not alone. Each night I pray for you, and dream that I’ll knock on your door and lead you to safety and freedom.

You have the power to turn the knob, open the door and leave. It took me 43 years to learn that. I beg you to hear my plea.

Mary Louise Liucci-Smith

Scarborough