Forum to address domestic violence is Wednesday

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WILTON – One of more than a dozen community forums to discuss the impact of domestic violence will be held 6 p.m. at Academy Hill School on Wednesday. The reason: After a woman was tragically murdered by her husband, the state Legislature responded by wanting to know how to prevent it from happening again.

Nicole Oliver, a mother of two children, had managed leave her abusive husband only to be lured back to the batterer by the promise of money from him to pay for her rent. When she returned home to pick up the rent money, he shot and killed her and then killed himself.

Oliver’s aunt, Judy Francoeur, told state Sen. Nancy Sullivan of Biddeford, that she believed if her niece had known about where she could have gotten help, she would be alive today. Sullivan responded by sponsoring LD 1990, a resolution “to Prevent Domestic Violence and Protect our Citizens,” that was unanimously enacted by the legislation this spring.

Bonnie Lisherness, the sexual assault response team coordinator at SAVES and, at right, Julia Terry, SAVES’ community education outreach coordinator will be attending the community forum on domestic violence at Academy Hill School in Wilton on Wednesday.

The resolution directs the Maine Department of Public Safety to review the resources now available to protect and support victims and what may be needed. To find out, Anne Jordan, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety is holding more than a dozen community forums around the state.

“We’re looking to have a conversation about the impact of domestic violence on Maine communities,” said Chris Cote, of the Department of Public Safety. “The ability of the state to respond to protect and support victims and the feasibility of funding will be studied.” Information from the forums will be compiled and presented to the Legislature on Dec. 10.

The forums that have already been held have been very positive, Cote said. “Victims came forward, along with community members, to tell their stories and what they thought would help.”

The decision to hold a forum in Wilton was based in part because of its rural nature. Located away from the cities of the state, the smaller communities don’t have the same access to services as the more urban areas have, Cote said. Another reason to come to Wilton, he noted, was the formation of the organization, Peace in Wilton Families, a few months ago.

The organization brings together representatives of the Western Maine Community Action, the Wilton Police Department, Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services, Abused Women’s Advocacy Program, the Wilton Ecumenical Outreach program, Wiles Remembrance Center, the Healthy Community Coalition and interested community members to find ways of providing training for those who are told of abuse, said SAVES community education outreach coordinator, Julia Terry.

“We’re excited the community forum is going to be held here,” Terry said. “It gives everyone an opportunity to come together to address the violence issues in Franklin County. It’s important.”

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