After 14 years in my position as domestic investigator and handling over a thousand cases of domestic violence in Sagadahoc County, I am often asked what drives me, given the unpleasant nature of my job. My reply is simple: It is the small victories that make this job worth it.

I admittedly came to this position without the unrealistic idealism that I would solve the relentless societal scourge of domestic violence. Having worked as a police officer in Topsham for 26 years before taking this position, I had been exposed to and completely aware of the dynamics of domestic violence and all of the complexities that prevent resolutions that most would find acceptable.

With each new case, I approach it with an open mind and measured expectations. The task with each case is the same: Ask the right questions, solicit relevant responses, discover the accurate information and then report my findings to the prosecutors.

This brings me to the point of what drives me to put the effort in. I cannot recall the number of philosophical discussions I have had with victims of domestic abuse, attempting to have them visualize the bigger picture. I never directly try to persuade them to leave the abuser, but simply to look at this and past events in their lives together with hopes they continue with their eyes open and objectivity in their hearts.

Yes, I take some satisfaction when an abuser is found guilty and an appropriate sentence is imposed, but that feeling does not last long when I learn that the victim wishes to continue the relationship despite the abuse. My best days are when victims reach their “Aha” moments. Those moments when victims of abuse finally recognize the situation they found themselves is not likely to get better. Those moments they recognize they and their children face risk of harm and that it is no longer reasonable to stay with this person.

I have three examples of women who articulated their discovery and awareness in writing in what I feel is their “Aha” moment. The following are excerpts of their feelings about their situation.

The first is from the narrative of a protection-from-abuse order:

“We have been together for four years and it has been clear to me that it is an unhealthy pattern. He controlled where I went, he said terrible things to me, I felt I was overpowered, I felt like he made all the decisions in the relationship and always knew exactly how to make me feel the way he wanted me to feel. I attempted to end the relationship seven or eight times but he persuaded me. I am afraid that he is going to continue to want to be with me and that is something that I could never want because he physically hurt me.”

Next is from an email sent me from a past victim:

“I have learned I am not the only one and he has a way of manipulating us females into believing these actions are completely our fault. It hurts to know I am the one who has to be the one to do this because he convinced me as others that we are the one and only love of his life. Yes, I am an abused woman and have been easily scared into covering up for someone I once believed was true and would never intentionally hurt me. I since learned many things about him and myself. I will not take the full blame for his actions. I will accept responsibility for my own actions as he should do.”

This piece came from a victim impact statement read in court at the time of sentencing for a domestic violence case:

“Any mother could tell you that she always wants what’s right for their children, their safety and well-being is absolutely of utmost importance, even before her own. But a mother is only as good for her kids as she is to herself. A broken mother can’t be the strength her children need when they’re looking for strength to draw upon. No man has the right to make a woman feel that she deserves pain and sadness because she’ll never be good enough for someone else. Fearing for myself and my children is not a place any mother should be brought to, and I pray all women will find strength to get the help and get away from such damage.”

These are the small victories that keep me going.