Who are the women in the windows? If you have taken a stroll around Boothbay Harbor or Damariscotta or Rockland or Camden lately you have seen the faces of women on large banners looking out from storefronts. There is something haunting in the eyes of each woman. Something they know, something they want you to know, to learn, to understand.
They are behind glass, isolated, for that is where most found themselves before breaking free. They were behind walls that seemed transparent but were rigid barriers between each one and the lives they should have had. That clear glass stands for abuse of so many iterations that it should take your breath away.
The faces are your neighbors from right here in Maine. They are often the women who everyone thought had “it all.” You know, the attentive husband or partner who never let her lift a finger in public. The supportive man who was always at her side at a party who finished her thoughts for her and gently chided her if she misremembered something in public. These were the great guys, the ones respected in their towns, sometimes lawyers, policemen and fishermen, office workers and doctors.
Except that the truth was far different at home, behind closed doors. Abuse has many forms and faces, and it is long past time to drag it out of the shadows and into the light of day. We cannot fix what we cannot see.
The banners are 4 by 2 and over each familiar face on there is a quote.
“My family photos disappeared.” “He killed my dog.” “It started when I was 10.” “It was all a lie.” “I was silent for 29 years.”
Under each quote: “Let’s talk about it.”
The banner project is the latest effort of Patrisha McLean to showcase survivors of intimate partner abuse. Finding Our Voices is a traveling exhibit and a safe space of sisterhood, support, and solidarity for breaking the silence of domestic abuse. Patrisha’s photographs on the banners are all people she knows- all women from in and around our local communities.
I met Patrisha many years ago in my life as a theater director. Her tiny daughter, Jackie, auditioned for me and was cast as the lead in “The Wizard of Oz.” I had no idea, nor had Patrisha, that we were sisters under the skin in the world of long-lasting domestic manipulation and abuse. It took years for each of us to step away. Her break to freedom finally took a dangerous episode that made it impossible to deny any longer, and a very public one.
But back then, I was able to offer a little girl a hand to gold and a little extra confidence onstage. She had (and has) talent enough for a half dozen people, but her anxiety before a show would skyrocket. Patrisha would call and say, “Jackie needs you to walk and talk with her.” We would walk up and down the empty aisles of the theater and hold hands and talk and she would step on the stage and shine like a new penny in the spotlight. I loved the moments.
Now, these many years later, I am surprised and proud to be ‘walking and talking’ alongside Patrisha McClean. I cannot possibly cover all the wonderful resources she is making available and the information that she is getting onto the public eye, so I will include links to that at the end of this blog.
Many local businesses are participating in the banner project. Their unabashed support for Domestic Violence Survivors is refreshing. It is wonderful to have local businesses acknowledging that domestic abuse is everywhere, that domestic and intimate partner abuse is not polite or tidy or convenient. Thank you all so much for your courage
Also: if any other store or businesses would like to hang a banner, please contact Patrisha at the links below. The women in the windows need your help, not for themselves as they are free, but for all the women who still do not know that they are not at fault, that there are helpers in this world.
Let’s talk about it.
Each out by email at email@example.com