Domestic violence is one of the most charged crimes. It is also one of the most unreported.

One of Finding Our Voices’ 41 “Say Something” posters, each featuring 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. Courtesy image

There’s a reason something that’s so prevalent is also kept in the dark: It’s an uncomfortable subject that we run from, leaving survivors to feel like they are alone.

This Valentine’s Day, students throughout Maine, who may face dangerous relationships now or in the future, will get the important message that there are people who understand what they’re going through and are prepared to help.

Finding Our Voices, a Maine-based nonprofit founded by Patrisha McLean of Camden, a domestic abuse survivor herself, will reach more than 25,000 Maine students in 100 high schools through a new statewide initiative.

The “Say Something” project will put posters and bookmarks featuring 41 survivors of domestic abuse, ages 18 to 81, all from Maine, all relaying the real-life experiences of women whose lives were upended by unsafe, unhealthy relationships fueled by controlling, abusive partners.

Scarborough High School sophomore Ava Wakem is flanked by school social workers Elise Lehotsky and Jaclyn D’Annibale in front of the school’s Finding Our Voices display for Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in February. Courtesy photo

One of the faces in the Finding Our Voices campaign is that of Gov. Mills, who posed for her portrait in the Blaine House, the governor’s residence. Her banner says, “Domestic violence affects everyone. Years ago, a man I loved threatened my life. Escape from violence is possible.”


Mills’ poster should leave no doubt with students that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, even someone who would go on to become the state’s chief executive.

Along with the other posters, it also shows that there is a life waiting after leaving an abusive partner, and that there are organizations full of people ready to help you find it.

“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,” a high school senior in Camden, where the posters were first put up, said in a statement from Finding Our Voices.

That’s a powerful message to send to teenagers, as is the initiative’s focus on recognizing unhealthy behaviors from intimate partners. It is critical that people just starting relationships understand what makes a healthy one.

And even if a student exposed to the project is lucky enough to avoid dangerous relationships, then perhaps they’ll be better able to recognize it when someone else – a family member, a friend or a co-worker – is experiencing abuse and could use a hand.

Maybe they’ll be able to recognize when someone they care about is feeling alone and isolated because of an unhealthy relationship, and they’ll be able to help them escape.

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