From left: Eliza Conley-Lepene, Patrisha McLean, Jeannine Oren and Kerry Roarke stand with a poster they hung at Brickyard Hollow in Yarmouth. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

A group of women spreading awareness about domestic violence hung large posters in Falmouth and Yarmouth last week that shows the faces of survivors.

So far, the group — Finding Our Voices — has placed about 1,600 24-by-30 inch posters in 40 towns across the state.

“It’s about erasing the stigma of domestic violence,” said Finding Our Voices volunteer Eliza Conley-Lepene. “It’s letting people know that we’re done with the suffering and the violence. The community needs to stand with survivors.”

Jeannine Oren hangs a poster at Brickyard Hollow in Yarmouth.

Conley-Lepene, along with Finding Our Voices founder and President Patrisha McLean and volunteers Jeannine Oren and Dr. Kerry Roarke hung the posters in business windows.  All four women have their own past experiences with domestic violence, and that’s what motivates them all to make a difference for other people going through the same thing, the said.

The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence worked with 12,516 people in 2020. A domestic violence assault is reported to law enforcement every 2 hours and 22 minutes in Maine, according to the coalition.

In Yarmouth, officers responded to 206 disturbances with a “domestic component between 2016 and 2020, according to Police Chief Daniel Gallant. A call to the Falmouth Police Department was not returned before The Forecaster deadline.

“I was in it for 29 years and didn’t realize it was domestic abuse,” said McLean the ex-wife of “American Pie” singer-songwriter Don McLean. “There’s a conspiracy of silence, where victims do not have a voice and because of that, these (abusers) are not held accountable.”

Finding Our Voices also aims to bring awareness to the different forms that domestic abuse can take.

“Domestic abuse is not just a black eye,” Oren said. “I want to make people better understand the connection between financial abuse and domestic violence. Studies show that 99% of cases of actual physical violence include instances of financial abuse, too. When I stumbled upon that stat many years ago, I immediately identified with it.”

Oren worked to get a bill passed in the state Legislature that expands the definition of domestic violence to include financial abuse. This year, she worked on the passage of a bill that adds economic abuse as a factor the court can consider when ordering spousal support. The four women testified in support of the two bills.

“We want to make sure people know they’re not alone,” Roarke said. “I didn’t understand the situation I was in. As someone who’s well-educated, I always thought it was a certain type of woman who was in that situation, but it can happen to anyone. It’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.”

“We’re going to paper as much of Maine as we can with our faces and voices,” said McLean. “We have to break the silence.”

For more information on Finding Our Voices, go to findingourvoices.net.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call Through These Door’s Cumberland County 24/7 helpline at 1-800-537-6066 or the statewide helpline at 1-866-834-4357.

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