Champions of Change Awards honors people who helped pass "economic abuse" legislation

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HALLOWELL, Maine (WABI) - Folks who contributed to helping domestic abuse survivors were honored Monday in Hallowell.

The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence held its annual Champions of Change Awards.

"These are people who have courageously worked to make significant change toward our collective mission," said Francine Garland Stark, Executive Director of the MCEDV.

Jeannine Lauber Oren, Scott Bahr, and Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, were honored for their work on legislation this past session in getting definition of economic abuse added to Maine statute and helping victims of economic abuse.

"The other thing that it does is it allows survivors to have their credit repaired under certain circumstances, if it's been damaged by an abusive partner," said Fay.

The nonprofit New Ventures Maine also received an award for their work with domestic abuse survivors.

"Every single law that's on the books related to domestic abuse and violence is there because of someone who survived abuse and said this needs to change, or someone who was killed as a result of domestic violence homicide," said Stark. "All the change we make, we make because of the courage of survivors coming forward in one way or another."

This comes on the heels of last week's release of the 2018 crime stats that show domestic violence assaults down in Maine by over 11.5% -- something that's promising to the MCEDV despite knowing that domestic abuse goes vastly underreported.

"We have a huge problem in our state, so every time we get a piece of data that tells us we're doing a little better, it's good news," said Stark. "But it's also a challenge to us all to know that there's far more work to be done."

In a press conference last week, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck acknowledged the inherent underrepresentation in the domestic violence stats and said they're working on making it easier for people to come forward.

"We need to make that reporting process as easy as possible," said Sauschuck. "We need to provide as much support as humanly possible so victims feel comfortable coming into that setting and making a report on oftentimes the worst days of their lives."