The request for volunteers came through as a flyer on a Facebook post. Amber Hatch ’19 read the details: “Looking for women for ‘Finding Our Voices’ story project on domestic abuse.” With some hesitation, Amber reached out to the contact for the project at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. Months earlier, she would not even consider sharing her own story, but things had changed in her life.
Amber Hatch was born and raised in Maine. As a high school student, she had dreams of going to college and even visited Bay Path with hopes of enrolling. But like many high school students, she didn’t have the proper advice and support to make that big step. She decided to wait.
Flash forward ten years. After spending a decade as a military police officer for the Maine Army National Guard, Amber began working at the Washington County Jail in Machias, Maine, and eventually the Maine State Penitentiary. Along the way, she became involved with a man.
Soon, their relationship became abusive and she found herself in a repetitive cycle with no way out. In her words, “…it caused a delay in my life.” He had been in jail due to a previous charge of domestic violence, and although he had taken classes, the pattern of abuse soon emerged again with Amber. Disturbing as it might be, Amber’s case is not unusual.
According to the 11th biennial report (June 2016) of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel—On the Path of Prevention—even though Maine has a relatively low crime rate in contrast to other states, Maine ranked ninth highest in the nation for homicides that males committed against females. In Maine, women are more likely to suffer harm at the hands of someone they know versus a stranger. Although strides have been made to counter this statistic, it is knowledge and education that could have the greatest impact in changing the narrative for the victims.
As for Amber, it was through luck and determination that she is no longer a victim. On her own, she was basically able to find a way out of her destructive relationship.
Today, Amber is a mother a two with a third on the way, and she is enrolled at The American Women’s College at Bay Path. “I became an adult student because I knew I had to change the direction of my life. I needed to feel successful. More important, I wanted to leave a footprint for my children to follow.” The flexibility of online learning works perfectly in her busy life. But what she didn’t expect in her online experience was the importance of the WELL (Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders) class.
“From WELL, I learned I could be a leader in my own right. Maybe not someone in the public eye, but more in the direction of how I can help people. When I saw the flyer looking for stories of domestic violence, I knew I had to do this for myself first. And then for others. I had to step forward. They have my story, but I own it. This is my voice.”
Majoring in offender rehabilitation and victim advocacy, Amber’s goal is to work with inmates in the criminal justice system. But she’s already putting what she has learned into action by volunteering at a legal project by providing assistance to low-income families with no financial resources or access to information. Now, she’s helping others find their voice.
The ‘Finding Our Voices’ story project will be launched by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence on Valentine’s Day, 2019.