AUGUSTA — Posters went up Friday in the Augusta area showing the faces of Maine women victimized by domestic violence as part of a campaign to peel away the shame in speaking publicly about abuse.

The posters were placed in business windows on Water Street in Augusta and also at shops in Hallowell and Gardiner.

They show the faces of teachers, artists, college students, a doctor, nurses and a governor, too.

“Domestic abuse affects everyone,” according to a statement by Gov. Janet Mills. “Years ago, a man I loved threatened my life. Escape from violence is possible.”

A campaign called “Finding Our Voices” said in a news release that the initiative “features 40 Maine women standing proud and speaking loud, with their faces, names and experiences of abuse on huge posters and also bookmarks to erase shame and stigma for the victim and bring education and awareness to the general community.”

Patrisha McLean, who founded Finding Our Voices, is a photojournalist once involved in an abusive marriage.

“My ex was arrested for domestic violence,” said McLean, who is from Camden, and was married to “American Pie” singer-songwriter Don McLean. She divorced him in 2016, and he was charged with crimes related to domestic violence, ultimately pleading guilty and paying a $3,600 fine to dismiss the case as part of a plea agreement.

She described how the shame from the experience made her reluctant to leave her home and face people in the community. “I thought it was embarrassing,” she said.

Jeannine Oren, left, helps Patrisha McLean get the “Finding Our Voices” poster straight in the window at Fussbudget Sportscards on Friday in downtown Augusta. That was one of the first stops for the group that was planning to continue asking to hang posters in business windows in Hallowell and Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

But McLean was met with support from other women, which prompted her to start taking portraits of other survivors and opening exhibits in Camden and Augusta.

“It’s all about breaking the silence,” she said.

McLean launched the nonprofit Finding Our Voices last year. She described domestic violence as an epidemic within the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the problem has only gotten worse as people isolated in their homes.

“I think not many people realize how many women, how many people go through this,” McLean said. “The stereotype is harmful because that’s where you get shame.”

Sarah McLean, from left, Mia Mantello, Patrisha McLean, Brad Shaw, Gloria Kunje and Jeannine Oren, right front, pose for a selfie Friday outside Shaw’s store/ Fussbudget’s Sportscards in downtown Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Mills earlier posed for a portrait taken by McLean at the Blaine House. McLean said she has received emails from people who had heard about Mills’ involvement and that has helped Finding Our Voices broaden its reach.

“Her coming out, not as governor but as a survivor, is huge,” McLean said.

In addition to the posters, Finding Our Voices produces bookmarks that are distributed at food pantries, bookstores, libraries, retail shops and other places. Police officers responding to domestic violence calls also hand them out.

The campaign has produced 25,000 bookmarks and intends to create 10,000 to 20,000 additional ones next year.

“We’re really upping our outreach in 2022,” McLean said. “And bringing Gov. Mills along is amazing.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.