HOULTON, Maine — Each year there is a story, and a crowd comes out to listen, teary-eyed and solemn, as a woman who was battered speaks about the physical and emotional pain she endured at the hands of her abuser.
Each year the crowd hopes the day will come that there will be no more stories left to tell, and officials with the Aroostook County Battered Women’s Project believe it can happen if the community pulls together to rail against domestic violence.
The Battered Women’s Project provides comprehensive support, advocacy, crisis intervention, emergency shelter and transitional services to individuals whose lives are affected by domestic violence in Aroostook County.
During a vigil and walk attended by more than 100 people on Wednesday evening, officials from the Battered Women’s Project and the community pushed for a nonviolent future during an event that was pegged “Purple Lights Night.” To coincide with the theme of the program, a tree in front of the Cary Library was festooned with purple lights, and those who attended the vigil placed ribbons on the tree — white ribbons to memorialize those who have died as a result of domestic violence, purple ribbons to honor victims and survivors.
The walkway to the library was lined with lights and wooden purple ribbons that were created by students in a shop class at Hodgdon High School. Each ribbon bore the name of someone who had died as a result of domestic violence.
Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon was the guest speaker at the event, which was held in Monument Park. He told those in attendance that a huge step to preventing domestic violence is early intervention. He said that he didn’t believe that treatment for batterers was always the answer, and stressed that the solution was to change the nature of the abuser.
Gordon noted that children who observe domestic violence in their homes struggle in school and at home and mimic the behavior they see. Gordon said it was important that children learn that such behavior is never the right action.
“Kids learn that behavior; it becomes a part of their nature,” he said. “We need to stop that. As a community, we can come together and break the cycle — it is the only way.”
During the vigil, a survivor of domestic violence told the crowd about how she was physically, emotionally, sexually and verbally abused at the hands of someone she thought initially was “a great guy.” She had watched her own mother abused by her boyfriend when she was young.
The woman told the crowd that her boyfriend beat her, berated her about her weight, spat on her and told her that no one else would want her. He destroyed most of the items in her apartment. All the while, she said, she hid the abuse from her family and friends.
“I pushed all my friends away from me,” she said. “I hid myself from my family and friends. I lied to them during the whole relationship.”
One night, she said, her abuser destroyed her entire apartment, kicked her in the chest and nearly choked her to death before sexually assaulting her. He then attempted to slit his own throat.
She got out and sought help from the Battered Women’s Project and is moving forward with her life.
Karan Wotton, who works for the Battered Women’s Project, said she was pleased to see the number of people who turned out for the vigil on Wednesday evening.
“They say that there is strength in numbers, and looking around, I’d say we are pretty strong,” said Wotton.