letter to the editor

Always grateful to Nikki Maounis and Ken Gross for giving me a voice

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 1:30pm
Acts of courage:
1) “Yes” from Nikki Maounis, executive director of the Camden Public Library, in 2018 when I asked her if the library would host a ground-breaking exhibit that I was pulling together of photo portraits of 12 domestic abuse survivors, many of them local women, and including audio recordings of some of what they endured. 
2) Still a “Yes” from Nikki even after I explained that my own photo portrait, and audio recording relating abuse by my ex who lived in Camden, would be included.
3) Still a “Yes” when I gave her fair warning that my ex was extremely litigious. Nikki did not ask to see any of the content of the exhibit in advance. 
When the “Finding Our Voices” exhibit opened in early February 2019, a flurry of threatening letters to venues planning to host the exhibit and to media reporting on it were issued by my ex’s lawyer Rick Morse.  (Another huge hero in this saga is Publisher Reade Brower, who turned the tide for me personally and for Finding Our Voices, and I will relate this amazing story another time). 
Still, the Camden library stood firmly behind me and stood behind the Finding Our Voices exhibit in the Jean Picker Room.
 Ken Gross as assistant director of the library was quoted about the exhibit in a Portland Press Herald article reporting on the legal threats:  “People have had a strong reaction and a pretty somber reaction. People think it is an important topic, and Patrisha McLean seems to be the right person to draw attention to it.”
(Since then, the library gave a warm welcome to a three-year anniversary Finding Our Voices exhibit expanded to include the photo portraits of 41 Maine survivors, and in November a panel of local men talking about growing up with abusive fathers.) 
This all came back to me with the report that Nikki is retiring from the library after 16 years of service, and on the heels of the February retirement of Ken Gross after 20 years of service. 
The word “service” in regards to these two shining stars needs to be rendered in neon for all of Camden to see, and appreciate. I will always be grateful to Nikki Maounis and Ken Gross for giving me a voice, for amplifying the voices of domestic abuse survivors, for taking a courageous stand for free speech and for the public’s right to know--and also for Finding Our Voices the nonprofit breaking the silence of domestic abuse in Maine and now in its fourth year because the Camden Public Library exhibit in 2019 is how it all started! 
Patrisha McLean, CEO and Founder of Finding Our Voices, lives in Camden