Safe Voices celebrates 40 years of service to the Lewiston/Auburn Community this year. Safe Voices was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1977. At that time our community struggled with addressing the needs of battered women and children who were not safe. There was no place for them to go, no low-income housing, no federal or state monies for domestic violence, and no laws to protect them. The project began as a response to a critical need for emergency shelter for abused women and their children. Local women from social service agencies in Androscoggin County attended a conference in Massachusetts to learn about that state’s efforts to help battered women. From there, Pearl Residential Facility was born, (known to the community as the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project) with two families accepting women into their homes. In 1979 the agency opened the first emergency shelter with a total of three staff, due in part to CETA funding. Over the years, the shelter moved many times, and once it was burned down and much was lost. Currently, Safe Voices operates the only shelter and support services for battered women in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties.
In 2010 the name was changed to Safe Voices to recognize that men are victims also, to have a more hopeful and empowering name, and to have a name that was easy to say. The new name has been a great success. A current participant in one of our support groups stated “We had no voice. Now it is safe to have a voice.”
Since 1977, Safe Voices’ goals of providing emergency and support services to victims of domestic violence, promoting ways to foster healthy relationships, educating the community about the seriousness and prevalence of this crime, and working toward legislative change so that communities no longer tolerate this abuse—have developed a strong safety net for victims of domestic abuse seeking support, assistance, and a life free from the threat of further abuse. In addition to providing emergency shelter, Safe Voices has a network of local community-based offices in Farmington, Lewiston, Norway, and Rumford. These local offices provide one-on-one support, support groups, children’s services, advocacy, information and referral, court advocacy, transporting and accommodation for shelter, community education, and professional trainings.