Finding Our Voices survivors and supporters who pushed for a bill bringing safety to domestic violence victims flank Gov. Janet Mills as she signs the bill into law. From left to right are Adeline and Eva with mom Nicole LeProhon, Jeannine Lauber Oren, Rep. Vicki Doudera, Gov. Mills, Eliza Conley Lepene, Sandra Goulet, Dezarae Caron, Dana Ward, Meg Libby, Finding Our Voices founder and president Patrisha McLean, Kerrie McAnulty, Mary Kamradt, and Jennifer Greensmith. Courtesy of Jessi Tracy

Domestic abuse survivors joined Gov. Janet Mills at the State House on Tuesday for a ceremonial signing of a law designed to protect victims and restrict abusers from being released early from prison.

The law, L.D. 692, was sparked by the survivor-led nonprofit Finding Our Voices and sponsored by Rep. Vicki Doudera (D-Camden). The law was officially signed on June 22 and restricts the early release of domestic abusers from county jails, while requiring stronger efforts to notify victims when an early release occurs.

“There is a long list of things that need to change to make our state safe for women and children, and L.D. 692 is a great first step,” said Patrisha McLean, president and founder of Finding Our Voices.

McLean said it was the “backdoor” jail releases that prompted survivors to fight for this bill.

McLean recounted the story of a victim who asked why her ex who just reported for his two-month domestic violence jail sentence was posting on social media. The man in question had previous convictions for domestic violence against two different women and was on probation when he criminally assaulted his most recent victim, McLean said.

“I found out that he had been released through something called the Community Confinement Monitoring Program,” she said.


McLean said the program doesn’t confine or monitor offenders and sexual abusers were exempt but domestic abusers were not. Appalled by this “get out of jail free card,” McLean contacted her local legislator to investigate.

A step forward

For survivors like Dezarae Caron, who testified in favor of the bill back in April in front of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, this is a victory.

“I never thought I could be a part of anything like that. I was just one person,” said Caron in a news release. “Now I feel so empowered. I have a voice; I have a say. And I can’t wait to do more.”

McLean said Finding Our Voices’ mission is to break the silence of domestic abuse across Maine by providing programs and funds to empower women, which enable them to find safety for themselves and their children. The nonprofit recently hosted an event at the Freeport Public Library where a panel of domestic abuse survivors shared their stories with the community.

In an effort to destigmatize victims and educate the public, the nonprofit placed posters and bookmarks in 90 local towns this year, with photos of 45 survivors aged 18-83, including Mills.

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