The town of Windham was recently the site of a personal and community tragedy. Noah Gaston has admitted shooting his wife, Alicia Gaston, on Jan. 14. Alicia Gaston died as a result of the injuries. Noah Gaston has been charged with murder in connection with the killing and was ordered held in jail pending a bail hearing Feb. 8.

Although many of the details of this incident have not been made public, we at Family Crisis Services would like to thank the Windham Police Department and the Maine State Police for their swift response and action.

We would also like to address questions that typically are asked after an alleged domestic homicide: Whose responsibility is it to notice and address the risk of family violence? Can you tell if someone is being abused? Can you spot an abuser? What should you do if you think it’s happening to someone you know?

Isolation is almost always a tactic of abuse. Victims of domestic violence are systematically isolated from friends, neighbors, co-workers and family. By using doubt and intimidation and promising to change, abusers make sure that everyone in the household is covering up the abuse.

Abusers frequently show a different face in the community than they do in their home. That you have not seen someone be abusive does not mean that they are not abusive when alone with their partner or family. If someone shares their story of abuse with you, it is important to believe them, help as you are able and not to doubt their story because it does not fit what you have personally witnessed.

As you listen, remember that there is no excuse for abuse and violence. No one deserves it. Please share our hotline number and other ways to connect with Family Crisis Services. Even if they don’t contact us right away, they may later.

Supporting the person being abused is important, as is holding abusers accountable for their behavior. As a community, we do this through enacting and enforcing laws. Beyond that, as individuals, we can pay attention to instances of abuse and violence.

In our daily lives we may see someone belittling, devaluing and demeaning a partner as a means to control them. We may witness or hear about these behaviors and ignore or justify them because it makes us uncomfortable to confront another person.

Very often, there is something you can do to support the victim and/or let the abuser know that their behavior has been noticed and it is not acceptable. We must not look to the victim or victims to stop the violence.

At Family Crisis Services, we have a three-part mission: to enhance the safety of victims and survivors; to be an effective part of the system that maintains offender accountability, and to change the conditions under which domestic abuse occurs.

We began as an emergency shelter in 1977 and now have a full array of services. We continue to operate an emergency shelter for families fleeing violence and also support victims with transitional services as they seek to build a life free of abuse.

Our 24-hour hotline is free, confidential and anonymous. The caller is not required to share any information that they don’t choose to share. Family Crisis Services’ hotline is the connection to our other services which include meeting with advocates in several sites in Cumberland County, court advocacy and accompaniment, and support and education groups.

We offer specialized services, advocacy and education regarding abuse in later life and human trafficking. We work within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ child protective services system, and in the Cumberland County Jail and Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Our EPIC program (enhanced police intervention collaboration) is an innovative approach in which advocates work with police to reduce future domestic violence assaults, identify high-risk cases and provide victims of domestic violence with support and services.

Family Crisis Services advocates are always available to talk about members of the public about what to do if they suspect that someone they care about is being abused. Call the free, confidential 24-hour hotline: 1-800-537-6066. To learn about domestic violence and how you can help, please visit Family Crisis Services online: familycrisis.org and yaapp.org (for our Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program), as well as in our social media accounts.

— Special to the Press Herald


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