PRESQUE ISLE – Donna always thought that if she just did something a little differently, she could fix him. Even when he wouldn’t let her out of the house except to go to work.
Even when he would call her employer and tell lies to get her fired.
Even when he would hit her and steal her money.
But when she wanted to get a college education and he went ballistic, that’s when Donna knew she had to leave.
The local woman, who didn’t want to use her last name, said it took all her strength and a lot of community support, but she did leave her husband.
And that’s why she believes domestic violence awareness is imperative.
“It’s so important that I can’t even describe how important it is,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes. “Having people aware of what’s going on in their neighborhoods or in their own families is so important. Sometimes the only way you survive is if people become aware.”
Donna is sharing that message this month as organizers with the Battered Women’s Project host a slate of activities to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Donna said the project was one of the support systems that helped her when she was ready to leave her abusive relationship.
Donna Baietti, Battered Women’s Project director, said this week that domestic abuse survivors need the support and the resources to change what’s going on in their lives, but that it takes a whole community being aware and fighting the traditional stigma associated with victims to really get to the heart of the problem.
“If people are looking at them and saying, ‘Oh, those poor people,’ then they need to check themselves,” Baietti said. “They need to say, ‘That could be me. That could be my mother or my sister.'”
The project already has hosted several candlelight vigils in Aroostook County to remember victims. They will host an awareness walk at noon Wednesday, Oct. 25, starting at Riverside Park in Presque Isle.
Other events include:
. Training for salon professionals to give them the tools they need to recognize domestic violence and how to create a safe environment if a woman discloses abuse.
. “A Walk in Their Shoes” art show at the Blue Moon Gallery. The show opened on Oct. 6 and depicts forms of violence.
. “Empty Place at the Table” exhibitions at Cafe de la Place in Madawaska and the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s Nowland Hall cafeteria in memory of those who have died this past year due to domestic violence in Maine.
. A display at the Blake Library at UMFK featuring artwork created by local victims of domestic violence.
. Library displays in Ashland, Caribou, Fort Kent, Fort Fairfield, Houlton, Island Falls, Madawaska, Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Van Buren.
Baietti said that if she could ask people in the community to do one thing in terms of awareness, it would be to have the courage to ask or speak up when they think something is wrong.
“I would love for the public to really pay attention, to reach out to someone who needs help,” Baietti said. “The community needs to be responsible.”
Donna said that for her, that community involvement – her family, friends and co-workers – made all the difference.
Donna is now a full-time student with a 4.0 GPA, and though she still faces a tough road ahead, she’s much happier with the life she’s living.
“It’s like sunshine every day,” Donna said as she smiled wide. “It’s not dark or deep or depressive anymore. And we’re going to stick with that sunshine.”
For more information, contact the Battered Women’s Project in Presque Isle at 764-2977.