Survivors speak out against domestic violence

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 1:15pm

Augusta – Five survivors of domestic violence will share their stories on a panel titled “What Trapped Me: What Freed Me” tonight, Thursday, Oct. 10 from 6:30-8 p.m at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine (HHRC). October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this event is part of  Patrisha McLean’s "Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse" exhibit on display at the HHRC through Dec. 13. All participants are willing to be interviewed by the press at the event.

The panel includes a woman from Boothbay Harbor who is breaking her silence at the panel because she said “I have had it” with post-divorce bullying from her abuser, and two women in the Finding Our Voices exhibit: 79-year-old Mary Lou Smith from Scarborough, who endured 42 years of abuse by her University of Southern Maine professor husband, and 29-year-old Amber, a corrections officer from the Augusta area. 

Also on the panel is Waldo County Sheriff Jeffrey Trafton, whose father brutalized his mother all through his childhood, and who now devotes his life to helping to hold domestic abusers accountable. “I hate bullies, and there is no bigger bully than a domestic abuser,” he says.

Patrisha McLean, a survivor and photojournalist based in Camden, who was married to Don McLean of American Pie, will tell her own story of entrapment and freedom and discuss how she was moved to create the exhibit.

McLean said, “There are a myriad outside forces – including societal attitudes, church, family, police and courts – that both kept us trapped and also helped to free us. We hope that by sharing our stories publicly we will help others avoid getting into abusive relationships, understand why they were pulled in, and get safely out.”

Visitors to the multi-media "Finding Our Voices "exhibit at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center can listen via cell phone to 19 women sharing their personal journeys of abuse by a person they loved and who purported to love them.  

The exhibit and event are cosponsored by the HHRC and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. 

“While domestic abuse is too often treated as an individual problem, it is truly a societal problem of oppression and violence,” said HHRC Executive Director Shenna Bellows.  “We have a collective responsibility to confront domestic violence as a human rights issue and break down the barriers that prevent victims from getting the help they need to be safe.” 

The “What Trapped Me: What Freed Me” talk and panel discussion will be at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine on the University of Maine at Augusta campus at 46 University Drive in Augusta. The exhibit continues through Dec. 13. For more information, go on the website or