Friends of Jillian Jones, a group formed in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 stabbing death of the Augusta woman, has started a campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence.
The TEAL Project was started by Tim Brown, a friend of Jones, and already has received more than 1,700 likes on Facebook since it launched on Monday.
Brown, 24, went to high school in Bingham with Jones and was an organizer of a candlelight vigil held in her memory there a week ago.
The 24-year-old woman was stabbed three times, allegedly by her boyfriend, Justin Pillsbury, 38, at their Crosby Street apartment in Augusta last week. Police said Pillsbury admitted that he killed Jones, and he is being held without bail at the Kennebec County jail.
Brown, who lives in Fairfield, said that while growing up he saw his mother abused at the hand of boyfriends and family members. He said Jones was like a sister to him.
Teal, which is Jones’ middle name, is also an acronym for Together Each Angel Lives, a message that Brown said means that by raising awareness, lives can be saved.
“Having somebody as close to me as Jillian (die) because of domestic violence, it’s something that resonates very deeply with me. I think the message needs to be spread so that people who may be scared to speak up can have an outlet,” Jones said.
There were 5,459 domestic assaults reported in Maine in 2006, according to the most recent data from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
At The Family Violence Project in Augusta, the number of calls and visits to the center have risen in the last three years, said Executive Director Deborah Shepherd.
In 2009 the center’s hotline received 3,890 calls, while in 2012 it received 4,561 calls. In 2009 the center saw 1,590 clients, while in 2012 it saw 2,239 clients, Shepherd said.
The rise does not necessarily indicate a rise in domestic violence, which is almost impossible to track because so many incidents are not reported, but does indicate a rise in awareness, she said.
“We are hoping that more people are aware they can get help. It’s important to tell someone and that is the result we are seeing,” she said.
The center offers guidelines for support and also encourages those who feel uncomfortable about going to a counselor to talk to friends or others.
People should feel safe seeking help if they are being mistreated by a loved one, said Thomas Blackstone, minister at the Green Street United Methodist Church in Augusta. He thinks almost every minister has listened to someone reveal that they are being abused or are concerned about a loved one who is.
“They should be able to talk without feeling like the person they are confiding in is immediately going to call the police, if that’s not what they want,” he said.
If you think someone you know is being abused, a good goal is to try to get that person in touch with someone who can help make a decision about whether the affected person should contact law enforcement and when to do so, he said.
Domestic violence is a crime, and it ultimately should be brought before law enforcement; but that decision is not always the highest priority.
“They want to feel safe. Maybe they’re contemplating leaving their spouse or partner, and that takes planning, especially if there are children involved,” Blackstone said.
In an emergency, he said, it is better to err on the side of contacting police if it appears that one or both of the people involved are in danger. If that’s not clear, contacting a local organization such as the Family Violence Project can put the person in touch with people who can make the decision, he said.
Brown said he thinks many victims do’not report or even talk about their abuse.
“It’s really discouraging that these people may think there’s no one to stand beside them or help them,” he said. The Facebook page is filled with comments from supporters, as well as links to information about recognizing and preventing domestic violence.
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