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Winterport woman using her voice, experience with domestic violence to push for change

Persis Smith at her home in Winterport
Persis Smith at her home in Winterport(WABI)
Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 3:26 PM EDT
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WINTERPORT, Maine (WABI) - We want to warn you that some of the details in this story may be difficult to hear and read.

Sunday marks the final day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but the work continues year-round.

Among the survivors using their voice to call for change is Winterport’s Persis Smith.

“The tragedy and the horrendousness that me and my children have been through, it wrecked me,” said Smith. “It wrecked my children. But, I had to choose whether I was going to sit back and do nothing or fight for our lives.”

On March 17th, 2021, Persis Smith was at home healing form a recent surgery when she says her husband, Christopher Pelkey, lost his temper.

“He came up and grabbed me by my hair and slammed me to the floor right on top of my surgery site and beat me until I was unconscious. He kicked me, hit me. Eventually he strangled me until I passed out,” Smith said.

Pelkey was arrested, and in the summer, convicted of Domestic Violence Assault. Other charges against him, including Aggravated Assault, were dropped.

Since then, Smith has been outspoken in sharing her story in the hopes of shedding light on an issue that’s often kept in the dark.

She’s gained a viral audience on Tik Tok with one video racking up nearly 3,000,000 views.

“This is for all domestic violence victims, from the past, from the future. I want to use my voice for the women and children that’ve lost their lives and don’t have a chance to sit here, because that could’ve been us,” Smith said.

Smith is not all talk. She’s taking action, too, advocating for new legislation to help protect survivors.

One idea would be to reform hospital policy around the way healthcare workers interact with potential victims when they come in.

“He was sitting right next to me and they asked me ‘Are you safe at home?’ and the questions they ask,” Smith explained. “There was no way I could tell the truth.”

She acknowledges this is already supposed to be addressed, but she has ideas about how to better implement the rules.

“We’re going to work on that process. Whether it’s an iPad and you have to hit yes or no, whether it’s a child or an adult, or the person has to leave the room so that they can ask those questions,” Smith said.

Another idea could help stop abuse before it happens.

“Sex offenders have to register, so why don’t domestic abusers?” Smith asked.

Smith’s soon-to-be ex-husband had previous domestic violence convictions out of Penobscot County that she says she didn’t know about until it was almost too late.

“It could’ve saved me and my children. How many women and children and men could it save?” Smith said.

Smith has shared her ideas with Sen. Susan Collins’ office and other elected leaders.

She plans to continue to push for change.

Helping others, while healing herself.

“Through this process I have found myself again, which is a really good feeling,” Smith said. “This has given me the hope that things can change, and I may only be one voice but I have a really big army behind me now. And I have faith that we can make a change and we can get justice. And I have faith that at the end of the day, everything’s going to be okay.”

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