“Finding Our Voices” is a powerful exhibit currently showing in the Camden Library. It is a forum for survivors of domestic abuse. There was also a talk last week to a packed room, with people standing and overflowing out the open doors.

It was led by Patrisha McLean, a survivor herself, who three years ago locked herself in her bathroom, escaping her bedroom after being “pinned to the bed, my head squeezed between the palms of his hands like it was a vise, and terrorized for hours. His clenched fists left bruises all over my body” she told the audience. Her now ex-husband, Don McLean, internationally known for his iconic “American Pie,” then broke the door to the bathroom, finding her terrified and on her cell phone with 911 on the line and police on their way.

What happened next has been written and cataloged abundantly in local, national and international media. Rolling Stone’s headline read: “Don McLean Pleads Guilty to Domestic Violence”; it seemed to Patrisha that perhaps justice was being served.

That has not been the case; as months and now years rolled on, she remained silenced. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, Don would end up with only three convictions on his permanent record, for domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief, and criminal restraint — not assault, even though Patrisha repeatedly expressed her willingness to testify to what she had been through.

Fears of lawsuits, fear of retribution and trying to keep herself and children out of the limelight effectively left Patrisha with feelings similar to those she had during her 29-year marriage — fearful and concerned for her well-being.

That changed when she began her plan for this exhibit. She realized her story was not unique. Victims of domestic violence have much in common; their spouses keep them in fear, shame them, withhold financial independence, and isolate them.

The talk began with Patrisha sharing her story, one including powerful references to what it’s like being under the thumb of an abuser. In their 27th or 28th year of marriage, she asked Don, “Why don’t you ever listen to me when I talk to you?” His curt answer: “Because you never say anything interesting.”

That kind of remark echoed in her slide show, which included audio stories from 17 women who joined her in what will become a statewide tour. Looking around the room, Patrisha, a renowned portrait photographer, had covered the library room with portraits of 13 women, each with a quote telling part of their story.

Nine local Maine women joined her on stage answering questions. What was powerful to many in the audience was seeing, as the evening progressed, their voices grow confident. At first, they were tentative, looking around with eyes seeming to say, “Who will take this question?” By the end, the microphone was passing around like a tin of cookies.

At the start, Patrisha was unsure whether any would join her onstage. After, there was a feeling that a common voice had lifted them all, shining a light on domestic violence.

There were professionals present to give assurances that support was available; if you have the courage to leave, there is help.

Domestic violence doesn’t go away the moment you leave; the voice in your head continues. “Sorry” is seldom heard; rather, a mantra continuing to haunt: “liar, crazy, stupid” — the fear doesn’t dissipate — not until you get a voice.

The arresting officer, whom Patrisha credits for saving her life, spoke. As he was putting Don in cuffs, she begged him not to, saying “it would ruin his career” and she was “OK now”.

The officer told the audience that laws in Maine are stronger than they used to be; telling Patrisha that night that he had no choice. Once he determined domestic violence had occurred, “I would be derelict in my duty as an officer if I hadn’t,” he told the crowd.

He said the turning point in his investigation came when he saw fresh scratches on Don’s arm. When he asked where they came from, Don said his horse had done it. It was 2 a.m. and the red blood suggested otherwise. His suspicions were confirmed by the thick splintered bathroom door and multiple body bruises on Patrisha.

Other common themes echoed in the show were spouses who “repeatedly threatened suicide,” abused alcohol, engaged in violent behavior, called the women in their lives “fat and ugly” and got angry and verbally abusive when they spent time with friends.

Patrisha first told her story and discussed the exhibit recently on the “Chris Wolfe Show” on local cable TV, breaking her silence. As you watch the hour-long show, you see her go from a frightened person, gulping for air, to one of confidence, several times asking Wolfe, “Do I have time to say one more thing?”

Link: http://www.mainecoast.tv/2019/02/05/cws-2019-02-04-domestic-abuse-patrisha-mclean-watchnow/

For Patrisha and these brave 17 woman warriors, the time is now, and with their voice, the world will hear them roar.

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“When we share those stories we’ve been scared to share, voicelessness loses its wicked grasp.” — Jo Ann Fore, life coach, author of "The Power of Encouragement"

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Bring the discussion to Village Soup online.

Reade Brower can be reached at: reade@freepressonline.com

Disclosure: Reade Brower is owner of these newspapers. The opinions expressed in his columns are his own, and do not represent the newspapers, or their editorial board.

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