MCEDV regularly engages in collaborative initiatives that further our mission and address the root causes of abuse. A few examples:
The Domestic Violence-Child Protective Services Program
For 20 years, MCEDV has partnered with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services to place specially trained domestic violence advocates in child welfare offices across the state. When the program started, survivors of domestic abuse who were involved with Child Protective Services were often held responsible by the system for the harm their partners had visited upon their children. Meanwhile, the actions of perpetrators of domestic violence when unrecognized and unchecked.
The program was developed in response to these experiences and grew from the recognition that by supporting protective parents, we can support children’s wellbeing and achieve more safety for entire families. Today, thanks to decades of advocacy and partnership, survivors involved in the child welfare system are met with a dramatically different response. All child welfare case workers have received in-depth training about domestic abuse and the impact of trauma. They benefit from policies and protocols detailing best practice responses for supporting protective parents. All DV-related cases are referred to the DV-CPS Liaisons from the beginning, seeking to address safety for the family as a whole and to hold the person doing the harm to account for their actions. The DV-CPS Liaisons work out of child welfare offices, but they are employed by their local domestic violence resource center and they are experts in the complex cases that wind up at CPS’s door.
Today, the program is supported through funding from the Office on Violence Against Women’s Rural Grant Program, and by Maine DHHS. MCEDV provides full-time coordination of the program from our Coalition office, coordinating the work of the Liaisons across the state and partnering closely with DHHS to train all child welfare workers and to address gaps and emerging issues within the system.
Economic Abuse Collaboration with New Ventures Maine
In 2017 MCEDV was awarded an Allstate Foundation Purple Purse Grant, allowing us to enhance the support, advocacy, and policy work being done in Maine to respond to abusive people’s use of economic and financial tactics against their partners. The project formalized our longstanding partnership with New Ventures Maine. Together, we instituted pilots at three of our member resource centers, where New Ventures workers now provide financial empowerment education with survivors on-site. We have also implemented a tiered matched savings plan through New Ventures, giving survivors the opportunity to receive financial literacy education while working on their savings goals, and developed a set of response protocols that we are integrating into the core domestic violence advocacy work done throughout the state.
The second year of the project will focus on expanding the pilots to additional centers throughout Maine. We’ve heard from survivors that they often leave abusive relationships with damaged credit, without a pathway to repair. To respond to need, we are working to integrate a credit repair program into the program as we move forward, as well.
The impetus for this grant work came from proposed legislation to address financial abuse during the 2017 legislative session. While the bill did not pass, the Judiciary Committee requested that a study be conducted to evaluate the use of financial tactics against survivors. MCEDV will conduct the study and provide the report in 2018. The report offers an opportunity to strengthen the supports for survivors who’ve experienced this facet of abuse, and to raise awareness about the severity and frequency of this tactic.
Trafficking Safe House
According to the Maine Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Network, approximately 200-300 victims of human trafficking seek services in Maine each year. For many of these victims, emergency shelter is a high-ranking need. In in response to this immense need, in 2018 MCEDV opened the only emergency shelter specifically for victims of sex trafficking and sex exploitation, supported in part by a contract with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services. The shelter, located in Lewiston, has the capacity to house up to 6 adult women and features 24-hour staffing onsite. The management of the house is a fully collaborative effort, involving our local member, Safe Voices; the Lewiston-based sexual assault agency, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services; Survivors Speak USA, a Portland-based, survivor-led anti-trafficking and sex exploitation organization; and Lewiston-based survivors of sex trafficking. The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault has also provided support for the project.
In our planning for this shelter and the associated programming, MCEDV and our collaborators engaged both community partners and sex trafficking survivors through a series of focus groups and one-on-one conversations. As we continue moving forward with this new shelter initiative, we will continue to work collaboratively with organizations doing anti-trafficking work in the state, while privileging the voices, knowledge, and experience of survivors.
Take Action Maine
In 2016, Daughters of Change, a Portland-based cause marketing company, approached MCEDV about creating a televised public awareness campaign about domestic abuse and violence in Maine. The result is an collaborative campaign that has aired throughout the state, highlighting the availability of support for Mainers impacted by abuse, and the need for Maine men to get involved in ending abuse. Sponsored by First National Bank and Hardy, Wolf & Downing, and supported by WGME, WABI and WAGM, the campaign resulted in an average 35 percent increase in calls to the statewide domestic violence helpline in its first year. In 2017, Take Action Maine was recognized with the First Place Creative Award for Public Service – Sponsored TV, at the annual Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB) News and Creative Awards. That same year, it was adopted by MCEDV’s membership as the statewide theme for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.