Camden-based nonprofit Finding Our Voices (FOV) has received national recognition for its “Outstanding Awareness Campaign,” the Let’s Talk About It/Women in Windows posters and “Best Awareness Event” for the October 2020 online art auction fundraiser that raised $15,000. In 2020, Theresa’s Fund (est. 1992), Domesticshelters.org and experts in the field joined forces to launch an awards program to honor “the heroes of the domestic violence movement”: Programs, advocates, shelters, survivors and community support systems.
Patrisha McLean, founder and president of Finding Our Voices, received an email about the two awards July 18. “I was really excited. These awards are from people who have been working in the trenches addressing domestic violence for decades. To get this recognition, and for me as a survivor … is all very affirming. I’ve never done anything like this before. (Finding Our Voices has) all been instinct and experience.”
McLean, a photojournalist and human rights activist, understands why the women she meets, pretty much wherever she goes, tell her they have never told anyone. The details are different, but the pattern of abuse is the same. Breaking the silence about domestic abuse is at the core of this nonprofit, which has been doing so through the words and faces of survivors. This distinguishes Finding Our Voices from the other groups working to shine a light on the violence and abuse going on in homes in every community.
The survivors on the 2’ x 4’ “Let’s Talk About It” banners seen on storefronts, community centers, libraries and other public venues, are breaking their silence in a bold way. Each survivior’s quote speaks to the various forms domestic violence can take.
Over the last two weeks, banners have been hung in Boothbay Harbor by Eve Jamieson and Hannah Marden Johnson – for a second time since June 2020. This year there are 32 banners; there were 25 last year. And since this banner campaign launched last spring, 1,600 banners have been displayed in 40 towns.
McLean, of Camden, said other than there, Rockport and Rockland, Boothbay Harbor is the only town FOV banners have come back to. Marden Johnson of Boothbay Harbor stepped up to be among the survivors on the Finding Our Voices banner and offered to help bring them back here.
At press time, the banners were in windows at Nathan’s Wellness & Apothecary, The Community Center, Sea Glass Spa, Gleason Fine Art, Good ’n You, Log Cabin Shoes, Car Quest Auto Parts, Pinkham’s Market, The Harbor’s Choice Laundromat and Dry Cleaners, Hometown Convenience, Coastal Maine Popcorn, The Skin Place, Shear Artistry, Maine and Ivy, Archive, Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce, Baker’s Way, Grover’s Hardware, Boothbay Harbor House of Pizza, Fisherman’s Wharf Inn, Downeast Ice Cream Shop in the Meadow Mall, H&R Block, Hammond Lumber, Boothbay Harbor Apparel, The Recovery Room, and Gimbel’s of Maine.
Last October, bookmarks, scaled-down versions of the 32 banners, were launched with an addition: the back of each has a partial image of her power and control wheel. The wheel has eight segments, one for each tactic abusers use to gain and maintain power and control over their victims. The wheel was created in 1984 by staff at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) when it began developing curricula for groups for men who batter and victims of domestic violence.
Camden Public Library was putting a bookmark in every book bag, distributing over 2,000 by Oct. 31. McLean had only ordered 4,000. Last May, she ordered 20,000 and by mid-July there were only about 200 left.
“What we’ve got are some dynamo ladies who are distributing them in their areas,” McLean said. “Eve has gone through I don’t even know how many because she’s giving them to nurses, social workers, hair dressers, libraries, bookstores, clothing stores. Martin’s Point has come on as a sponsor and put them in all of their exam and waiting rooms. This makes me realize every hospital and doctor’s office should have them.”
The bookmarks are also distributed by 40 food pantries across the state thanks to Good Shepherd in Lewiston after reading about them in newspapers. The food bank put out an email to the pantries and they emailed Finding Our Voices. McLean said the pantries were putting bookmarks in every order.
Officers in 40 police departments around the state have bookmarks in their cruisers thanks to help McLean received from Rockland Police Chief Chris Young. “Chris said they were the greatest outreach program he’d ever seen,” said McLean. “It has a face and a name. I asked him if he could help get the bookmarks out to all the police departments in the state. Chris set up a Zoom meeting and I met with all the police chiefs around the state. I got so many emails after that from chiefs saying they loved it and wanted some.
Two months ago, Hannaford came forward as a sponsor for the bookmarks and McLean’s friend, international best-selling author Tess Gerritsen, is sponsoring the bookmarks for a second year because, “Everyone deserves to feel safe."
Fundraising and sponsorships fuel the programs and services Finding Our Voices offers: “Get Out – Stay Out” is a referral-based program, helps a woman starting over by paying bills; first and last month’s security; car repairs; clothes; and Hannaford donated gift cards. Mentorships connect survivors with professionals in the field they are interested in.
Finding Our Voices also holds Zoom-based monthly book club and invitational support groups. McLean hosts a radio show, “Let’s Talk About It,’ on WERU and a podcast at https://findingourvoices.net/podcast
Daughters of survivors are starting youth groups in communities and colleges to talk about it. Jamieson said tourists watching posters going up ask if the group could bring the banner campaign to their states.
“So many women say they feel less alone seeing these banners in the windows,” said McLean. “We have to keep going for all of the women who can’t speak out. We can make a difference. And we are.”