If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TTY 1-800-437-1220. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
HOULTON, Maine – More than 70 people gathered at the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Community Center Wednesday night to remember and honor native women and men injured or killed by someone they knew or loved.
Some held hands, some bowed heads, but all knew the toll violence takes on families and their community.
“I have seen all walks of life, it’s everywhere,” said Catherine St. John, who heads the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy Center. “We want to bring awareness to the high rate of domestic violence among native women.”
St. John has worked with the advocacy center – available to anyone affected by domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, stalking and sex trafficking – in many roles for over a decade.
“I want to empower women,” she said.
According to the National Institute of Justice native women and men experience domestic violence at significantly higher rates than others, with nearly 90 percent committed by non-native partners.
More than half, about 55.5 percent, of native women experience physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Congress of Native American Indians Policy Research Center. St. John said that the local tribal numbers are similar to what is seen nationally. Although, experts say it could be higher because domestic violence is often not reported.
During Wednesday night’s vigil, held for the 26th year during Domestic Violence Awareness month, Houlton Chief of Police Tim DeLuca said that the domestic violence numbers are staggering in the Houlton area and the only hope is education and making people aware of the resources.
St. John said that in addition to the women’s 10-bed shelter and 24/7 hotline, the advocacy center focuses on education and getting into the schools to talk about dating violence and things like love bombing.
“They say, ‘Oh he just bought me all these things,’” she said. “That’s love bombing.”
The shelter is highly secured for women and children and it gives a woman time to figure out what to do next. Sometimes they need food stamps, a job, clothing, diapers, St. John said.
“We help them make a plan,” she said.
DeLuca said that the resources at the advocacy center are outstanding.
The vigil included drumming, singing, poetry and a shawl ceremony to honor and remember victims and those they have lost to domestic violence as well as remembering the survivors and those who did not make it home from residential schools for stolen native children.
In closing, St. John read a list of women and men killed in the past year in Maine at the hands of a partner or family member, including a Monticello woman, Kimberly Hardy.
“I ask you to light a candle for someone you know impacted by domestic violence,” she said.
To reach the advocacy center 24 hr Crisis Line: 207-532-6401.