High schools from York to Caribou are bringing the survivor-powered outreach of Finding Our Voices to their students starting in February’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Finding Our Voices is marking its three-year anniversary on Valentine’s Day with its posters and bookmarks going out to more than 25,000 Maine teenagers in 100 high schools and tech schools in the first phase of this statewide school initiative. The print material features the faces and voices of 41 named, Maine survivors of domestic abuse aged 18 to 81 and including Maine Governor Janet T. Mills. At many of the schools, it will be students putting the posters up in their school’s hallways, offices, classrooms, and bathrooms.

One of the 41 Finding Our Voices “Say Something” posters, each starring a different Maine survivor, going to 100 Maine high schools in the first phase of the nonprofit group’s dating abuse-awareness and prevention school initiative.

Patrisha McLean, founder and president of the grassroots, Maine-based nonprofit said Valentine’s Day is perfect timing for bringing its award-winning domestic abuse-awareness campaign to teenagers: “Some of the survivors on our posters were 14 or 15 when they met the intimate partner who terrorized them and their families for decades.”

“We are partnering with Maine schools to relay the message that love is not grand romantic gestures and flowery words but rather respecting and valuing your intimate partner. The first step to recognizing, avoiding, and escaping and healing from dangerous relationships is talking about it, and I applaud every one of the school staff members and administrators making our survivor-powered outreach part of this conversation.”

Each participating high school will also receive a Finding Our Voices dating-safety curriculum based around the real-life experiences of Maine women who were trapped with angry and controlling intimate partners. There is no charge for this material thanks to a generous grant from Camden National Bank, which is sponsoring the 2022 Finding Our Voices school outreach.

According to Magnolia Vinci, 18, and a senior at Watershed School in Camden, “These posters resonate with me every time I see them. To know a local organization provides an outlet for women who have experienced domestic abuse to share their stories and spread their word of support is a relieving feeling. It’s easy to feel alone in your experiences and these posters give a real sense of community, something everyone could use right now.”

At Scarborough High School, the Finding Our Voices material is augmenting a multi-dimensional Teen Dating project spearheaded by Social Workers Elise Lehotsky and Jaclyn D’Annibale. Lehotsky said the personal stories of Finding Our Voices survivors “will empower students and staff to share their witness or experience of relationship abuse and help everyone recognize behaviors that are unsafe, unkind, and unacceptable.”

Survivors from Finding Our Voices are also leading conversations in various schools throughout the year about what is love and what is not love, with a local survivor often joining the presentation.

Finding Our Voices volunteers are powering this school initiative, with the goal of shining a survivor-light on domestic/dating abuse in every high school, tech school, college, university, and adult ed program in Maine.

In addition to breaking the silence of domestic abuse community to community all around Maine, Finding Our Voices provides an array of sister-support services. For more information about the school initiative or its other projects and services, contact Patrisha McLean at hello@findingourvoices.net or visit FindingOurVoices.net.