Five survivors of domestic abuse will share their stories during a “What Trapped Me: What Freed Me” evening, on Thursday, Oct. 10, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine (HHRC).

This event, with survivor panel discussion, is part of Patrisha McLean’s "Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse" exhibit on display at the HHRC through Dec. 13.

McLean invited Waldo County Sheriff Jeff Trafton to join three women on the panel discussion because of his commitment to holding domestic violence perpetrators accountable and getting justice for the victim. Trafton is himself a survivor of domestic violence, having watched his father physically and emotionally brutalize his mother throughout his childhood. “I have always been against bullies, and there is no bigger bully than a domestic abuser,” Sheriff Trafton said. “As a boyfriend or husband, they are so familiar with the victims, they know exactly how to most hurt her and they use that. They bully the woman to where she is too traumatized to do anything about it, so he feels safe, and that is part of why it escalates. I have seen a lot of that in my 35 years in law enforcement.”

McLean, a survivor and photojournalist based in Camden, will tell her own story of entrapment and freedom, present the voices of some of the survivors in her project through a slideshow, then moderate the survivor panel and question and answer session. She said, “There are a myriad outside forces – including societal attitudes, church, family, police and courts – that both kept us trapped and also helped helped to free us. We hope that by sharing our stories publicly we will help others avoid getting into abusive relationships, understand why they were pulled in, and get safely out.”

The multi-media exhibit features the voices and photo portraits of 19 women ranging from 18-year-old college student Sydney from Camden to 79-year-old Mary Lou from Scarborough. Visitors to the exhibit listen via cell phone to the individual women sharing their personal journeys of entrapment into, and journey out of, abuse by a person they loved, and who purported to love them.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the “What Trapped Me: What Freed Me” evening is part of a larger initiative to highlight domestic violence as a human rights issue. The exhibit and event are cosponsored by the HHRC and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

“While domestic abuse is too often treated as an individual problem, it is truly a societal problem of oppression and violence,” said HHRC Executive Director Shenna Bellows. “We have a collective responsibility to confront domestic violence as a human rights issue and break down the barriers that prevent victims from getting the help they need to be safe.”

The “What Trapped Me: What Freed Me” talk and panel discussion will be at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine on the University of Maine at Augusta campus at 46 University Drive. The exhibit continues through Dec. 13. For more information, visit or