Banners highlight domestic violence

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ELLSWORTH – On Friday, October 15, a group of women ranging from college age to decades older sat around a table outside the Flexit Café to chart their route.

The women, mostly but not all students at the University of Maine in Augusta, were in Ellsworth to put banners in store windows to raise awareness about domestic violence.

“Finding Our Voices” is an exhibition of 40 photographs of women who have successfully broken free from abusive relationships, who speak about their experiences in their own words, writing clearly for everyone to read.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Camden founder and resident Patrisha McLean. “Putting a face to this problem, a name and a voice, resonates. “

Launched by McLean in 2019 as a gallery exhibition, “Finding Our Voices” showed near life-size photographs with words inscribed by the women photographed and audio recordings so that viewers could hear the words in the women’s own voices. . The exhibit spent four months at the Maine Holocaust and Human Rights Center and traveled to cities in southern and central Maine.

“Then COVID struck,” McLean recalled. “That’s when we switched to banner portraits.

Smaller in size but not in effect, the streamers show women of all ages photographed by McLean, a professional photographer. They hang on the windows of Flexit, Acadia Law Offices, Coastal Interiors and other local stores. In fact, it was Lori Chase of Coastal Interiors, who saw a TV report on the banners and contacted McLean, who started the display locally last year.

“She said, ‘It has to come to Ellsworth,’ McLean recalls.

What shocked McLean in 2021, with the stores reopening, is the willingness of owners to ditch a good percentage of their storefronts for banners – and leave them hanging for much longer than the two months McLean requested.

McLean and his cohorts have hung the banners in 40 cities to date, and smaller ones in high schools and hospitals.

“People all over the state are saying, ‘Send them to me,’” she said.

COVID-19 helped the project, McLean believes.

“COVID took it to another level, just because there was a little more talk about spikes in domestic violence and more sensitivities about it,” she said.

“My ex always told me that I was incompetent, that everything was his world, and that I was worth nothing, I had no value, I was not worth listening to and nothing I was. was saying had no value, “she continued. “For the women who participate, you are not alone. There is help out there, and the first step is to tell someone something. This is the message we are giving. And it’s a message to everyone that [domestic abuse] is everywhere and it happens to everyone. [The banners] demystify dangerous stereotypes.

Finding Our Voices is funded by donations and grants, some local and some national.

Visit FindingOurVoices.net for more information or by email [email protected] or call McLean at 322-6460.

Journalist Anne Berleant covers news and reporting in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking the local trails, reading, or watching professional tennis. Email him at [email protected]
Anne Berléant


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