Finding Our Voices

Businesses shining light on domestic violence

Mon, 08/22/2022 - 8:15am

Finding Our Voices President Patrisha McLean and local FOV volunteer Eve Jamieson were distributing and hanging posters at businesses in Boothbay Harbor on Aug. 11. In the six hours they were doing so, 2.5 domestic violence assault calls were reported to Maine police every two hours and 22 minutes, based on Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence statistics. In 2006, a domestic assault occurred every 90 minutes in Maine, according to Department of Public Safety in 2006. In Maine, over 75% of domestic violence victims who are killed are killed when or after they leave the abuser. 

McLean launched Finding Our Voices in 2019 with a multi-media event at Camden Public Library through the use of photographs of 14 Maine women, domestic violence survivors, who, like McLean, were willing to put themselves out there as a beacon of hope to those still living in the darkness of abuse, power and control exerted over them and their children. Their photographs, taken by photojournalist McLean, were accompanied by the power and control wheel, a tool domestic violence agencies use to diagram the tactics an abuser uses in a relationship.

Since that event, McLean said, 3,000 of those posters have been displayed in the windows of businesses in over 65 towns statewide. The exhibit has traveled from the library to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta this fall. And McLean has presented a slide show and talk on the exhibit at Maine Correctional Center: Women’s Center Prison in Windham.

Forty-three women in two and a half years have chosen to use their hard-won freedom to speak out, to shine a light on their experience, and to share, in just one or two sentences what their lives had been like.

“The problem is the shame, the stigma, and (domestic violence is) a dark subject, but what we’re saying is, ‘Come into the light, when you get out it can be beautiful. And you can get out. Just say something to someone you trust,’” McLean said. “I wanted to bring (domestic violence) into the light for everyone to see – big, bold and beautiful. That’s why the original posters, the Women In Windows, were so large.  But, right now people are telling us they are seeing the posters in this or that town, so I feel like this has been an effective campaign. We’ve gone through seven designs since we started three summers ago, and I still see the original ones in places. Now it’s time to take this campaign deeper and broader and that’s why we have the two smaller size posters.”

Those posters are 11” x 16” and 8 1/2” x 11.” They are made for businesses with little to no window space, and can go in dressing rooms and restrooms. McLean feels this is an important step: A lot of women living in domestic violence situations are often accompanied by their abuser in public and cannot stop to read one of the posters.

And there are more women and children living in these households than you might think: It is still here – including the Boothbay Region. 

“Wherever we go ... just today someone here in Boothbay Harbor asked for a poster for their business restroom and told us about a family member who has been living in a domestic violence situation for 30 years,” McLean said. “The best thing family, friends and neighbors can do is not judge. Because when you’re in it, you don’t see what they see; everything is turned around for you. For 29 years I didn’t see it; it’s like Stockholm Syndrome.”

Jamieson said she is approached by people asking for referrals for themselves or someone they know to get help through FOV’s Get Out and Stay Out Fund. “The fund helps with food, medical and therapy bills, rent or hotel money, clothes ...  it has made a tremendous difference in their lives to be able to get out and stay out,” she said. “There are five right now in different stages of getting out.” Domestic violence is pervasive, McLean said.

“The businesses that are putting up these posters are saying, ‘We see it and we are not going to tolerate it,’ to the people walking by or who are in their place,” McLean said. “These towns are sending a message: It’s not OK.”

The posters displayed on the windows of businesses encourage conversation about domestic violence. McLean said a father told her he was walking by a store with a poster with his 9-year-old daughter, and it started a conversation about domestic violence.

The local businesses sending that message are Pinkham’s Gourmet Market, Boothbay Harbor Mart, Mainely Nautical, House of Pizza, Boothbay Region Community Center, Boothbay Region Health Center, Nathan’s Pharmacy, Pedago Electric Bikes, Sherman‘s, Brisetto’s Second Cup, Waves, Boothbay Harbor Apparel, Kaler’s, Calypso, Fisherman’s Wharf Inn, Orne’s Candy Store, Gimbel & Sons: Country Store, Log Cabin Shoes, the Smiling Cow, Gretchen’s Closet; Pier 1 Pizza & Pub; Wharf Street Restaurant and Bar; McSeagull’s, Archive, Boothbay Harbor Artisans, Boothbay Region Art Foundation; Harborside 1901; Downeast Ice Cream Factory; Grover’s Hardware; Coastal Maine Popcorn Company; Main and Ivy, Gleason Fine Art, Boothbay Register and Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library.

Harbor Mart and Mainely Nautical co-owner Patty Sterling supports women in her business. Mainely Nautical sells products made by women in Maine and throughout New England. “To support women in domestic violence situations is a no-brainer,” she said before hanging a poster of Hannah in her Harbor Mart storefront.

McLean said LincolnHealth has requested 50 of the smaller posters for its campuses. The posters are also displayed in all Maine family planning clinics and in every Goodwill dressing room in Maine, New Hampshire and Northern Vermont. 

Additionally, Maine’s Medical Mobile Health Program contacted FOV last month and requested 300 of them, translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole, to display in its medical vans and in seasonal farm worker housing. Last year, Women for Rural Healthy Living distributed posters, translated into Spanish all over Washington County for farmworker families harvesting blueberries. McLean said some people from Portland are interested in posters in 15 languages. 

The women on these posters have varied vocations – a boat captain, teachers, homemakers, artists, and one in political office, Maine Gov. Janet Mills. 

“Say something. There are people who can help,” stressed McLean. “A woman was referred to me the other day by a police department. I connected her with her local domestic violence organization and she called me back and said she ‘had no idea there was help out there.’ But there is.”