Program

Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative

A reading and discussion program for those working in the field of domestic violence

Contact

Meghan Reedy
Program Officer
(207) 773-5051

Details

Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative

Reading and discussion groups to support those working in the field of domestic violence

The national rates of domestic violence are staggering—nearly one in four women in the United States will experience intimate partner violence in her lifetime—and the statistics in Maine are equally sobering. On average, between 45-55% of all homicides in Maine are domestic violence related. In 2012, 47% of all assaults reported to Maine law enforcement were domestic violence related. And while domestic violence can affect individuals of all genders, 85% of victims are women. As alarming as these numbers are, we know the magnitude of the problem is even greater; each year, many instances of domestic abuse go unreported.

Despite its prevalence and immediacy, domestic violence remains difficult to discuss. Too often, conversations about family and relationship violence are stifled by shame and social stigma, a reluctance to meddle in ‘private’ affairs, concerns for personal safety, and fears of retribution.

MHC’s Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative, inspired by our Literature & Medicine program, arose from an awareness of this silence and the role it plays in perpetuating the cycle of violence. In partnership with members of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence (MCEDV), MHC developed a facilitated reading and discussion program that could begin to address some of the major difficulties facing organizations and individuals who encounter domestic violence in their professional lives. In particular, our MCEDV partners shared:

  1. The need for opportunities that allow professionals to connect with one another across organizations, build relationships, and talk about the challenges inherent in this work, and
  2. The need for more outlets for self care and more structured spaces to talk about the difficult issues they face so they can perform at their best, stay in their professions, and better help those they serve.
Actors reading scene

Outside the Wire performing a stage reading of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as part of public programming for the Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative

Together with MCEDV, MHC also worked with nationally acclaimed social impact company Outside the Wire to develop a public humanities event to spark public discussions of this critical issue. Using scenes from A Streetcar Named Desire to examine the topic of domestic violence and invite public dialogue, the event unfolded in three parts: a dramatic reading by professional actors; responses to the scenes from a panel of community members representing a variety of perspectives on the issue (for example, family members, law enforcement, domestic violence prevention advocates, and health care professionals); and a community, town-hall style discussion lead by OTW’s Bryan Doerries, a skilled and thoughtful facilitator.

If you are interested in taking part in the Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative, please contact Meghan Reedy, Program Officer.

Testimonial

  • “The readings on domestic violence and abuse combined with the thorough discussion with the group really broadened my understanding of this topic and made me more comfortable discussing it and addressing it in the health care field. [It] helped remind me of how important our jobs are here in the hospital and made me feel more connected to others in the health care setting who are faced with difficult patient/family cases; made me feel less alone in that regard.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “Staff who participate… have found the sessions to be extremely helpful in our work with one another and in our ability to provide the best care for our patients. I can easily see the value of having a group of health care professionals, staff at domestic violence prevention groups, and others from professions involved in providing support to victims of domestic violence in a similar kind of reading and discussion group… Health care providers must be educated on the devastation domestic violence produces and learn how to recognize the signs of abuse and how to best to communicate with victims of abuse. Readings and open discussion about domestic violence will provide valuable assistance and support to Providers and staff.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “Because of this program, I know folks who work in the DV community and have a clearer understanding of the magnitude of the work.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “[It helped me understand] that the people actually working in the field of domestic violence aren't the only ones who understand the issue and challenges involved.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “Having done this work for a long time, the readings and discussion helped to renew my committment and remind me why I became interested in this work in the first place.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “Learning from others who deal with the same issues has opened my eyes to the fact that while we are all busy working in our organization we need to learn how to collaborate with others who do the same work. Talking at our last meeting it was discovered that while we offer shelter and Next Step offers shelter we have no concept of exactly what services we both offer. This lead to a discussion of how we need to work together. I find that I also have regained some of my empathy for others after being able to discuss my frustrations with the group. It was refreshing to be able to discuss in a safe place all the frustrations that can build.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “I have a deeper respect for some of my colleagues with whom I've worked for a long time. We are always at meetings with specific purposes or discussing particular client's needs. This opportunity has deepened my respect for many of them because I know more of their experience and their struggles.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “I appreciated the careful selection of readings and their variety of perspectives and literary formats (novel, poetry, etc.) represented.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “[We now have a] much stronger relationship with a local sheriff who participated. Very helpful to improve law enforcement protection for victims and treatment of incarcerated women in [our county]!”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “I have focused my whole life on continuing my insight and evading cynicism/burn out. this kind of group work is a HUGE help.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “Facilitating the reading and discussion group surpassed my expectations. I entered the project with some hesitation about the ability of the project to meet the articulated goals. After the first of our four sessions, it became clear through participants’ statements and my own experience that this reading and discussion group serves a vital need. Participants regularly noted feeling supported by the readings and the group. People commented that they liked the “intermingling of voices” and “broadness of perspectives” offered by the range of material read and the group conversation. They appreciated the opportunity to “learn” and “contemplate.” They noted that the group assisted them personally and professionally. They felt honored and respected for their work in domestic violence by the exquisite craft of the literature read and discussed.”

    -- Participant, Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative discussions

  • “The conversation afterwards breaks the comfortable position of the audience watching safely. I feel even as a non abuser or even witness that I need to feel responsible for domestic violence in our society.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “The panelists picked up on things in the performance that I had not (e.g. before abuse, men’s treatment of women in general) and I thought I got a lot. Also learned all of the obstacles to effective prosecution of what otherwise looks like a ‘slam dunk’ case.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “This made me think powerfully about my responsibility as a man to end domestic violence.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “Hearing other’s personal experiences with DV was very powerful (upsetting and informative). I appreciated the very open and supportive format, and everyone’s meaningful and articulate contributions to the discussion.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “The violence brought back memories—reminded me that I was once that person being abused and how I felt shamed and didn’t want to talk about it.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “[I learned] how to support a loved one who is being abused yet is unable or unwilling to leave.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “[I appreciated the] discussion: wide-open and thoughtful: the presence of stories in the room.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “Using the text from A Streetcar Named Desire as a vehicle for people to see, hear and think about domestic violence allowed for an incredibly open and honest conversation about domestic violence.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “Through this partnership, local domestic violence resource centers throughout Maine had the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with the Maine Humanities Council and Outside the Wire, and together we were able to overcome many of the obstacles that may often stifle community conversations about domestic violence.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

  • “We constantly look for alternative routes for public awareness about domestic violence. Abuse is a difficult topic to talk about. Presenting it through literature and theater, as well as allowing an opportunity for the audience to process the intense emotions that are evoked was a very effective way to introduce the issue and to take care of people at the same time. In addition to the public awareness contribution that this program provided, there was an additional unexpected benefit to the overworked advocates themselves. In the way of all good theatre, the performance and collaboration ahead of time used a different part of the brain and emotions than their daily work. Advocates talked about being re-invigorated and feeling valued by seeing their work from this alternative perspective and from the resulting community dialogue.”

    --Audience member, Outside the Wire performance

Funded By:

The Welch Charitable Fund at the Maine Community Foundation

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The Maine Community Foundation

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