Working to End Domestic Violence

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Are you in an abusive relationship?

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior in which one person attempts to control another through threats or actual use of physical violence, sexual assault, and verbal or psychological abuse.

Who does abuse happen to?

Anyone can be a victim of abuse, no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, education or income level. Everyone deserves to be safe in their relationship.

  • 1 in 4 women in the United States report experiencing some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in her life. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008)
  • Maine has the oldest population in the nation, 19% over the age of 60. (Maine DHHS/OES. 2006)
  • Elder abuse has no boundaries. It affects women and men of all cultural and socioeconomic groups and people with all levels of physical and mental functioning.
  • There are over 14,000 calls to Adult Protective Services each year. (Maine DHHS/OES. 2006)
  • In Maine, it’s estimated that only 7% of elder abuse cases are reported. (Legal Services For the Elderly, 2001)
  • 15% of domestic violence victims are men. Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.
  • 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men have been stalked in their lifetime. Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. (1998). “Stalking in America.” National Institute for Justice.

What does abuse look like?

People who abuse their partners are seeking control over them. The tactics used to maintain that control may take many forms, including the following:

  • Physical violence – Every year, over 7,000 Maine women are physically or sexually assaulted by an intimate partner and over half of them (57%) are injured as a result of the violence. (Maine CDC 2008)
  • Threats – This may include anything from threats of physical violence to threats to report a parent to Child Protective Services or threats to commit suicide. The intention is to make the victim too fearful to leave.
  • Intimidation – Certain looks, phrases or gestures may be used to scare someone into compliance.
  • Isolation – An abuser will often try to prevent their partner from having contact with friends, family, and other social supports. By isolating their partner they make them more dependent on them.
  • Financial – The abuser will frequently control all of the financial assets. They may prevent their partner from working outside of the home or may control their income, giving them an allowance, preventing them access to credit cards and accounts.
  • Using the Children – The abuser may threaten their partner that they’ll never get custody of the children if they leave, may threaten to harm or take the children, or may try to manipulate the children to take sides against the other parent.
  • Minimizing and Blaming – Abusers frequently try to avoid accountability for their actions by minimizing the abuse or turning it around on their partner, e.g. “It wasn’t that bad,” “I wouldn’t have hit you if you’d just been quiet,” or “I only did what I did because you pushed my buttons.”

Whether the victim is a man or a woman, the definition of domestic abuse is the same.

Being abused by an intimate partner can be scary and confusing. The feelings that result will be similar, whether you are a male or female. Men and women both experience feelings of shame, isolation, and are often afraid that no one will believe them if they report being abused.

If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse it is important to remember that being assaulted by someone you are in a relationship with is just as much a crime as being assaulted by a stranger. There is support available for men who are being abused.

Our advocates can help you:

  • recognize the signs of an abusive relationship
  • provide support and advocacy
  • talk to you about resources available in your community
  • discuss safety issues and your options for protection afforded by the law

Animal Abuse

Family Pets are commonly viewed as family members and companions. Unfortunately, similar to domestic abuse, abusers demonstrate power and control over the family by threatening, harming, or killing animals. They may harm pets to punish the victim for leaving or to retaliate for acts of self-determination or independence.

Unfortunately these actions can:

  • Keep an abused partner from leaving
  • Manipulate an abused partner to return to the relationship
  • Force victims to be quiet about abuse
  • Create an atmosphere of terror and fear

It has been reported that up to 40% of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they are concerned about what will happen to their pets when they leave. And 65% of women who report prior pet abuse continue to worry for their pets’ welfare after entry into a shelter.

Here are some Tips for Victims With Pets (from the Humane Society of the United States):

  • When vaccinating pets against rabies and licensing them with the town or county, it is important that registrations are in the victim’s name. This will serve as proof that the victim owns the pets.
  • Prepare the pets for a quick departure: collect vaccination records, pet license, medical records, and other documents, bowls, bedding.
  • See if a family member or friend can care for your pet for a while.
  • Contact local humane societies to see if they have a program to keep pets of victims of domestic violence.
  • Ask for help from animal care and control officers or law enforcement if pets need to be retrieved from the abuser. Never reclaim animals alone.

Call our help line at 1-800-559-2927 and we will work with you for the safety of your pet.


Stalking is a tactic that has been known to increase the lethality of a domestic violence situation. About 76% of women killed by an intimate partner are stalked prior to the murder. In fact, most people who are stalked know their stalker.

The general definition of stalking is any pattern of behavior that would leave a person feeling uncomfortable or afraid. All 50 states have some form of stalking statutes, but these vary from state to state. To find out the specifics in your area, call your local law enforcement.

Stalking can present in several different behaviors, ranging from unwanted electronic communications (such as e-mails and text messages) to leaving things in your door way. Behaviors may include:

  • Following you
  • Threatening you
  • Sending unwanted letters
  • Asking family and friends about you or trying to get information about where you are, work, or live
  • Showing up at your place of employment
  • Continually calling you
  • Moving, obstructing or damaging your personal belongings to leave a sign they have been to your property
  • Using the Internet, e-mail, social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace) or other forums to message or keep track of your whereabouts

Someone being stalked may experience one or all of these behaviors and possibly a whole set of different behaviors.

Keeping a record of stalking incidents is very important if you wish to take legal action against your stalker. The following are helpful tools that you can keep with you in your home or vehicle:

  • Baggies, for collecting evidence (use paper for organic evidence)
  • Disposable camera
  • Flashlight

Red Flags

You are the best judge of what makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in your relationship. The following are examples of some common behaviors used by abusive partners. Does your partner do any of the following?

  • Call or text you all the time
  • Tell you who you can and can’t see
  • Tell you what to wear
  • Call you names
  • Put you down
  • Discourage you from doing things on your own
  • Make you feel guilty for spending time with other people
  • Threaten to hurt you or friends and family
  • Abuse your pets
  • Get jealous when you are in the company of the opposite sex
  • Try to prevent you from working or going to school
  • Control all of the money that comes in
  • Pressure you to do things that you do not want to do
  • Control your access to transportation, including the family car
  • Show up at you workplace or school and cause a scene in front of other people
  • Repeatedly make promises that it will never happen again
  • Belittle your parenting skills in front of your children
  • Try to turn your children against you
  • Make you feel like everything is your fault when arguments happen
  • Make you feel like you can’t do anything right
  • Minimize your feelings and not listen to you
  • Make you feel crazy by questioning your version of events and saying things happened differently than you remember

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you can call our confidential, toll-free, 24-hour helpline at 1-800-559-2927 to speak to an advocate.