October brings leaf peeping, hayrides in apple orchards, and Halloween spirit. What you may not know is that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Nationally, one in four women and one in seven men have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Such violence affects more than 12 million people annually. One in three children who have witnessed intimate partner violence reported being physically abused themselves. That’s why this month, I want to help raise awareness, and share what we have done in the Legislature to address this issue.

Henry Ingwersen

The road to justice for domestic violence survivors is not an easy one. In fact, the longstanding backlog in the courts has made what is already a burdensome and lengthy process only more painful for survivors. To address the backlog, the Legislature voted to fund new positions for justices, clerks, and marshals to keep up with current filings.

We also proactively funded two assistant district attorney specialist positions to handle both sexual assault and domestic violence cases. These two positions would have otherwise disappeared as a result of a decrease in federal funds. Both measures were included in the budget we passed this summer, and they support survivors of domestic abuse who are seeking legal action.

This past budget, however, was not the first time that we provided funding for domestic violence services. In 2019, when I was a representative in the House, I was proud to cosponsor and support legislation to increase funds going to both sexual assault and domestic violence prevention services. This was the largest increase in funding for sexual assault and domestic violence prevention services in nearly two decades. Domestic violence centers across Maine are vital for many survivors seeking help, and this funding is critical for them to continue serving Mainers.

In recent years, my colleague, Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, has championed legislation to support survivors of domestic violence. One of the many challenges that survivors face is rebuilding their lives. To make this transition easier, the 130th Legislature passed Sen. Bailey’s bill that protects survivors of domestic violence from housing and employment discrimination. Oftentimes, survivors lose their home and their job to escape their abusers. This law now provides a layer of protection for those experiencing intimate partner violence when they leave their abuser.

However, this work isn’t over. We have made tremendous progress to support and protect survivors of domestic violence, but there is still more for us to do. As a grandfather of 12, I want to ensure that Maine is a safe place for them. This work to prevent and end domestic violence is a large part of this goal. We must continue to help make survivors safer, to punish abusive behavior, and to improve accessibility to the legal system for survivors seeking justice.

If you are someone who has experienced or are experiencing domestic violence, there are several resources available for you to seek help when you are ready. You can call the Maine Domestic Abuse Helpline at 1-866-834-HELP. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call 1-800-437-1220. More information and resources are also available at mcedv.org. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 and in many languages at 1-800-799-SAFE or by texting START at 88788.

If you have any questions about the information here or if you would like to reach out with a comment, question or concern, you can reach out to me any time. If you want to stay up to date on what we’re working on in Augusta, please sign up for my email newsletter at mainesenate.org.

Henry Ingwersen represents Senate District 32 which is made up of Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Hollis and Lyman. He can be reached at Henry.Ingwersen@legislature.maine.gov or 207-287-1515.

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