HOULTON – As several Aroostook County towns plan walks and vigils to raise awareness about domestic violence in the coming weeks, two local agencies have received word that they will share in a federal award of funds to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Gov. John Baldacci announced late last week that more than $1 million dollars in federal funds have been awarded to 29 Maine organizations from the federal STOP Violence Against Women Act, which is administered by the Maine Department of Public Safety.
Sexual assault and domestic violence organizations, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies are among the groups that will receive funding.
The receipt of the money coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which runs through October.
In Aroostook County, both the Presque Isle Police Department and Aroostook Mental Health Services Inc. will receive some funding as part of the grant. Aroostook Mental Health Services will garner the largest portion of the purse, $47,808, while PIPD will receive $8,244.
The money is slated to promote community-based programs to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault while also helping groups that are providing assistance and support at the local level.
Baldacci lauded the award, saying that the federal funds are “vitally important dollars to help organizations that are on the front lines in addressing serious problems affecting our state.”
Throughout Aroostook County, the Battered Women’s Project has planned several events to raise awareness about domestic violence.
The project has outreach offices at Presque Isle, Caribou, Houlton, Madawaska and Fort Kent.
A walk and vigil will begin at 6 p.m. today in Bicentennial Park in Madawaska.
That event will be followed by similar ceremonies in Caribou on Oct. 4 and in Houlton on Oct. 19.
The final event will take place on Oct. 25 in Presque Isle.
According to state Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara, there were 5,459 cases of domestic assaults reported to Maine police last year, in concert with 322 cases of rape and sexual assault.
Domestic violence accounts for more than 50 percent of Maine homicides, according to Cantara.