In early 2020, the public tuned into the plight of people living with domestic abuse in a new way. What will happen, everyone was asking, to people who aren’t safe in their homes? Will shelters remain open? How can people get help when in-person services are limited?

We are now two years into the pandemic, and the increased challenges for survivors have not relented – nor has the commitment of Maine’s advocates working around the clock to provide support every day.

Maine’s Domestic Violence Resource Center (DVRC) network – members of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence – serves all 16 counties. In 2021, the DVRCs served 13,175 people – 11,375 victim/survivors of abuse and 1,800 concerned community members. While it wasn’t always possible to meet in-person during that time, DVRC advocates made it work. Call volumes increased 13% over 2020. Connections via email, text, and video increased 67%, facilitated by federal rescue funds that allowed programs to invest in the right tools to connect safely and confidentially with survivors.

Advocates are among the unsung frontline workers of the pandemic. Throughout the public health emergency, they have consistently ensured that core programming is available, even when it has meant trimming the sails and scaling back other initiatives. And it has worked: 97% of the time, survivors reported that DVRC advocates helped them plan for safety and manage the risks they faced. 95% of the time, survivors said that DVRCs were able to meet their needs, even when they couldn’t meet in person.

This network has a long and proud history; Maine’s first domestic violence program, now called Partners for Peace, was among the first such programs in the country. The DVRCs were founded by survivors and people who cared about them. Today’s staff and volunteer advocates – many of whom bring their own experiences with abuse to their work – remain deeply committed to those roots.

Maine’s DVRCs have been working and organizing in their communities for decades. One of their central approaches is to leverage the power of the community by coordinating the response of other sectors – like health care, law enforcement, housing services, and faith communities – and connecting survivors with resources that they need while planning for safety.

As pandemic-related attention to the plight of survivors has surged, so too has the publication of information urging Mainers to contact out-of-state resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline. There is no wrong way to seek help, and Mainers should know about the resources that exist right here in our state, through MCEDV and the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition, whose members offer advocacy in Maine’s five tribal communities. One of the strengths of Maine’s domestic violence movement is how connected it is to the movement across the nation, including through other state and tribal coalitions and national resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the StrongHearts Native Helpline. Indeed, national programs refer callers back to the local resources. Mainers can reach a local advocate near them directly via the statewide DV Helpline 24 hours a day: 1-866-834-4357. Deaf or Hard of Hearing folks can connect via the Maine Relay Service: 1-800-437-1220. Contacting the helpline connects people to an invaluable range of supports, like legal advocacy, financial assistance, housing navigation, sheltering, and more.

Maine’s advocacy programs have been busier than ever, and we know there is so much work left to do. As we head into the third year of this pandemic, we are celebrating the resilience of survivors and of the advocates who have been working alongside them to identify pathways to safety not just over the past years, but the past decades. There is always an advocate on-call in your community. Don’t hesitate to call.

Correction: An earlier version of this column misspelled the author’s name. It has been corrected.