Friends are sending me Time magazine’s cover story about how Russian leaders’ inaction over the domestic violence epidemic is causing women to take it on themselves.

A mother and her son are shown in their corridor in the Kitezh shelter for women, where the mother is staying with her two children, in suburban Moscow. Russian leaders’ failure to address a pandemic-driven spike in domestic abuse has prompted Russian women to fill the vacuum themselves. Mary Gelman for The Washington Post

To quote Shania Twain: “It don’t impress me much.”

The Kremlin may deny that domestic abuse is a problem and may have failed to pass 40 draft laws to protect victims. But from what I see on the ground as I travel the state, Maine women being terrorized by intimate partners do not have it better, even if our laws are more progressive, and our politicians’ words more supportive.

Since COVID-19 took hold one year ago, I have been walking into hardware stores to hair salons from Machias to Biddeford, asking for 2 feet by 4 feet of window space for a banner featuring the face and voice of one of 32 Maine survivors of domestic abuse, to open everyone’s eyes to how much mayhem short of murder is going on all around us.

More often than not, a haunted look will come over the face of the employee or owner, or customer overhearing the request, and I will be told, often in a whisper, how they, and/or a daughter, mother, friend, co-worker, have been pulled into a war behind closed doors with a hitherto Prince Charming, leaving them battered, emotionally if not physically.

From a preppy clothing store in Boothbay Harbor to a flea market in Dover-Foxcroft (the day before the police chief was arrested and charged with trying to strangle his girlfriend), two things are always the same: The perpetrator is never held accountable, and the courts serve only to further torment the victim.

Advertisement

Ask me, like Bob Dylan’s blue-eyed son in “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” what I have seen and heard, and I will tell you that in just the past week:

A woman didn’t come in for her job interview the previous evening, according to the pub owner, “because of domestic violence.” The niece of a cashier at a lobster shack was killed by her boyfriend. A business owner turns her sign to “closed” many a weekday because her ex uses frivolous legal motions as a tool of abuse. A hairdresser’s son-in-law – charged in one court with beating up her daughter in another court – is awarded unsupervised visits with her grandchild.

According to the Maine Department of Public Safety, a third of all assaults in our state are domestic violence, but according to me, it is worse because this is an unreported crime. An Omertà as binding as the Mafia’s is imposed through misplaced love, master manipulation and justified fear, reinforced by the knowledge on the streets – according to a Hancock County resident assured by officials that her ex would serve 20 to 30 years behind bars for what he did to her and ending up serving less than a year – that “nothing is going to happen to him, no matter what he does to me.”

Time magazine reports how in Russia, 100 women volunteers are doing what their government will not do for victims of domestic violence.

As courts and social services fail the women being terrorized in bedrooms and kitchens all across Maine, we need this kind of outrage-powered volunteer brigade here as well: Survivors of domestic terrorism – wearing yellow for having miraculously managed to cross over into the light – making a beautiful and ever-louder noise to finally hold accountable not only the perpetrators, but also the judges, district attorneys, lawyers, Child Protective Services officials and every other person charged with protecting women and children who is talking the talk, but turning a blind eye to this pandemic within a pandemic for which there is no vaccine.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.