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From all across Maine, the stories of women who’ve survived domestic abuse

Photojournalist Patrisha McLean helps break the silence of domestic abuse.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Olivia was in a cabin with the man she loved when they got into an argument. “He ended up getting me on the ground, face down. He was a big guy,” she says, pausing for a moment to fight back tears. “He had his hand kind of wrapped around my face and my neck, and my head was turned to the side, and I could not breathe. But I was able to start screaming, ‘Help! Help! Help!’ ” Within a minute or two security was pounding on the door.

The man who had attacked her sat on the bed, rocking back and forth. “He goes, ‘Liv, Liv, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I love you. I love you so much. I’m sorry. Tell them everything’s fine,’ “ she says. “And I do remember saying to him, ‘You don’t do this to somebody you love.’"

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Olivia’s story, told with photos and audio, is one of about twenty from women in Maine who were abused by husbands or boyfriends. They’re part of an exhibit called “Finding Our Voices” at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta. Patrisha McLean, a photojournalist from Camden, gathered the stories and pictures, some of them from women she’d known for years in her daily life, women who—like her—had been abused.

Listening to these stories is sobering. “Some of them were really hard to hear,” McLean says. “But then to see the women on these walls…Once they broke the silence, they’re strong, empowered—and I loved to see that.”