My name is Mary Lou Smith. I am a seventy-nine-year old survivor of domestic violence. I left my abusive marriage on August 21, 2005 at the age of sixty-five. I have worked very hard over the last fourteen years to resurrect myself from the ashes of domestic violence. I almost ended my life the day before I left, to stop the pain of my abuser. When I told my ex-husband how desperate I was, and that I had attempted suicide, he went and got a gun and said, “I’ll show you how to put a gun to your head and be successful committing suicide.”

I can still hear the cylinders spinning. I didn’t leave until the next day. If fact, we went to the movies and to 5:30 mass that afternoon.


My ex-husband had his doctorate and was a professor in a graduate program. He was well respected by his students, colleagues, and the community.

Neither family nor friends suspected there was abuse going on in our house. Every one was surprised and shocked that “the perfect Smith’s weren’t perfect.” My dream is to help one person, I may never meet, leave an abusive relationship. 

I am the voice for those still living with abuse. I do not list what I have done for recognition but to share where my journey out of domestic violence has taken me. I have been the keynote speaker at the Family Crisis Gala (now, “Through These Doors”), have numerous editorials published in the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, spoken to dental students at University of New England Dental School two years in a row, as well as to church, community, and women’s groups, and having spoken and participated in a panel discussion at the Southern Maine Harm Reduction Conference at the University of New England last fall. I was chosen as one of eleven participants around the US to be interviewed and be a part of a video series by National Clearing House for Abuse in Later Life’s video project, “Lifting Up the Voices of Older Survivors,” which will be posted on the Department of Justice’s website this month. 

My story is ageless and timeless.


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