Sponsors Needed to Shine a Light on Domestic Violence

By Lura Jackson


There are some truths – such as domestic violence – that we may prefer not to acknowledge because of the pain or discomfort they represent. Only by bringing those truths into the open can they be confronted, however. It is with that in mind that Next Step Domestic Violence has organized Shine a Light, a campaign that will culminate with the lighting of a tree in Memorial Park on October 3rd. The goal is to have one thousand lights on the tree, each of them representing the nearly one thousand individuals that Next Step assists with domestic violence concerns every year. 

Domestic violence is an ongoing, significant problem in Maine. While Maine has historically had low homicide rates, a study released in 2016 found that half of all homicides in the state are a result of domestic violence. The severity of the problem may be worsening. A national study based on data from 2013 found that Maine ranked 9th in the rate of women killed by men, a statistic attributable to domestic violence. In 2012, Maine was ranked 22nd, and in 2011, it was ranked 23rd. The sobering statistics indicate the need to address the issue, the first step of which is accomplished by raising awareness of domestic violence along with the resources available for those affected by it.

“I feel it is very important to bring domestic violence into the open where we can all recognize it and work toward stopping the cycle of violence,” stated Calais Police Chief Dave Randall in support of the Shine a Light campaign. “In my thirty-year career, I have dealt with grandparents, parents and their children. If we do not stand up and break this recurring cycle of violence, it will never be brought into check.” 

Domestic violence is rarely a stand-alone issue, and households that are affected are often contending with other stressors that compound the situation. “The drug and alcohol abuse along with the metal health issues in our county make this a very serious and volatile crime, and recovery for families is difficult,” Chief Randall said. “We stand with Next Step and support all that they do in our community and are thankful that they are here to help us maneuver through all of the challenges of domestic violence.”

Calais was the first of four municipalities approached to host the Shine a Light campaign, and it was subsequently the first to accept it. The tree lighting ceremony will be held simultaneously in Deer Isle, Ellsworth and Machias. While the other locations have met their targets for sponsorship, Calais has not yet, in part due to having its advocate assigned only recently. Mary Mitchell, the newly-appointed advocate for Calais’ Shine a Light tree, is intent on collecting enough sponsors to put all one thousand lights on the tree.

“Each light represents hope,” said Mitchell, “and it’s with that hope that through education, compassion, and awareness we’ll be able to have peaceful, loving communities and homes.”

The lights may be sponsored by individuals or by businesses, and they can be purchased a single light at a time or as half-strands and whole strands. Those who sponsor a light will be listed on the Shine a Light website. To make a donation, visit www.nextstepdvproject.org/shine-a-light-/.

Immediately before the tree lighting event on October 3rd, there will be an awareness walk beginning at the Next Step office at the First Congregational Church in Calais at 5:30. All are invited to participate in the walk and to wear purple in support of domestic violence awareness. The walk will conclude at Memorial Park with the lighting of the tree.