Women who became shadows of their former selves after spending decades living in abusive domestic partnerships are walking out into the light. And they are speaking out, talking about what happened to them and, in some cases, to them and their children.
Twenty-five Maine women from 18 to 80 found the courage to come forward and become part of Patrisha McLean’s multi-media traveling exhibit, “Finding Our Voices.”
McLean defines it as “a safe space of sisterhood, support, and solidarity for breaking the silence of domestic abuse.”
An award-winning photojournalist, McLean is using her skills and creativity to encourage and support Maine women who survived and freed themselves from domestic abuse. Whether physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, their stories will offer the light of hope to women still forced to live in the shadows.
“Women find us. I meet with them and they tell me their story,” McLean said. “If I ask them if they are ready to come forward, and they say ‘I think so ...,’ I know they’re not ready. The last thing I want to do is add to their emotional strain.”
She created the “Women In Windows” campaign in response to the self-isolating Mainers did on Gov. Janet Mills’ March 16 order. “I realized it was getting more dangerous for women during the pandemic. We needed to find another way to get the message to women.”
The touring exhibit of 4’ x 2’ banners, each featuring a survivor’s photo, are displayed in the storefronts of 56 businesses in Camden, Rockland, Rockport, Ellsworth, Machias, Calais and now Boothbay Harbor. Businesses displaying the banners here for six weeks (through July 15) are: Sherman’s, Tide Pools, Life Is Good; Coastal Maine Popcorn, Maine and Ivy; Gimbel’s of Maine (five stores), Shear Artistry, Boothbay Harbor Apparel, Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, The First National Bank (sponsor of the Boothbay Harbor campaign), House of Pizza, The Community Center, Nathan’s Wellness & Apothecary, Harbor Tech Solutions, and Harbor Theater.
Women In Windows will also be in Damariscotta in July and Eastport in August. Then McLean will move it into southern Maine.
Boothbay resident Eve Jamieson has been volunteering with Finding Our Voices since she attended the Valentine’s Day 2019 launching of Finding Our Voices at Camden Public Library.
“I was so moved by it. I knew I wanted to bring the program to Boothbay Harbor,” said James visited the local businesses now involved.
“Women In Windows” has also been at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine (as framed photos), the State House in Augusta, the Maine State House, and the University of New England this year. McLean had speaking engagements at each venue’s opening.
Sponsors of the traveling exhibition in the other communities include Bath Savings Bank, the Maine Women’s Fund, and First National Bank.
Sue Norton of Boothbay works at the First National in Damariscotta. She approves which sponsorship opportunities the bank will be part of. Norton said for the past three years the bank had sponsored Daughters For Change that supports the state’s domestic violence help line for victims.
“The bank has always supported initiatives that promote an end to domestic violence,” said Norton, also a board member of New Hope For Women. “(First National) wanted to find another resource to support and we looked at this campaign as a way to continue the work being done for victims and survivors.”
A slideshow presentation and Survivor Speaks panel discussions have been held around Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts. McLean has also created a podcast, airing June 5 at 4 p.m. on WERU: “Let’s Talk About It: Conversations With Survivors,” will broadcast weekly.
At some point during the six weeks “Women In Windows” is in Boothbay Harbor, McLean and Jamieson plan a public event, Survivors Speak, perhaps on the Boothbay Common, and live-streamed via the Finding Our Voices Facebook page. All COVID-19 precautions will be observed. McLean hopes the campaign will inspire other women to come forward and join a few of the “Women In Windows” at the event in the works.
Of the women who have stepped into the light and shared their stories, McLean said, “They feel solid. They feel safe. Some have said they feel safer having gone public because people know; and they’re aware.”
McLean said Daniel Quintanilla’s short film about the campaign will be ready for release online soon. The six-minute film was financed through a Kickstarter Fund in just 24 hours.
For more information about Finding Our Voices, a 501 3c nonprofit since April, visit https://findingourvoices.net. If you are ready to share your story, or if you just want someone to listen, one-on-one, contact McLean at firstname.lastname@example.org.