LR Coalition: Who we are

This month, the Lakes Region Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault would like to take the opportunity to do the monthly article a little differently than usual. Family Crisis Services would like to give the Lake Region community a sneak peek of one type of work that we do with survivors of domestic violence.

In 2002, Family Crisis Services, Cumberland County’s domestic violence agency, conducted a study which showed that approximately 95% of incarcerated women were currently or previously in an abusive intimate relationship.  Recognizing the connection between female incarceration and domestic violence, Family Crisis Services began offering support groups for incarcerated women at the Cumberland County Jail and Maine Correctional Center. Family Crisis Services is one of only a handful of domestic violence agencies in the country that offer such programs.

In 2007, Family Crisis Services began offering creative writing groups in addition to existing educational groups through their incarcerated women’s program. During the writing groups, participants read a variety of genre including poetry, short stories and excerpts from novels, and write creative and autobiographical pieces. One poem they read, The Truth About Us, by Terri Haven, a social worker who researches prisons, resonated with many of the participants. After reading the poem, the women wrote their own “Truth about Me” pieces, the poems featured in More Than A Rap Sheet. The project is a moving exhibit that consists of 27 poems and 21 portraits of incarcerated women in Maine. From the exhibit, we created a brief slide show that can be shown to classes and groups to foster discussion amongst participants.

In October 2009, the exhibit was displayed at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland for three months. We had an opening night reception where some of the authors read their work. We had an overwhelming attendance of almost 150 people! The exhibit then traveled to the Muskie Institute at the University of Southern Maine.

Following is a poem written by a survivor, as part of the “Truth about Me” project:

The truth about me is my passion for drugs burns inside me like fire. My obsession has turned me into a loser, a liar.

The truth about me is I take money, I steal, but never spent a dime of it on clothes or a hot meal.

The truth about me is my son thinks I’m at a hotel. I could never bear to tell him that mommie’s in hell.

The truth about me is a needle ruined my life, from the moment a man handed it to me, who promised to make me his wife.

The truth about me is now I’m all alone, have nowhere but the county jail to call my home.

The truth about me is my reflection makes me sick, can’t keep living my life this way, I’m done, that’s it.

The truth about me is addiction took me really low, that’s the truth about me and now you know.

But these truths won’t define me forever and I won’t give up till my son and I are back together.

Don’t judge me just cuz I’m wearing orange cuz being here today has taken strength and courage.

The truth about me is I might be another number in the system, but you could learn a lot from me if you just took the time to listen.”

For more information please feel free to contact the Family Crisis Services hotline at 1-866-834-4357 or the SAPARS hotline at 1-800)-71-7741. Also note that our monthly Coalition meetings take place on the fourth Thursday of every month from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Bridgton Town Office. The Coalition would love to have more members of the community in attendance at these meetings to discuss the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in our community.

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