The November 28 Finding Our Voices event of men talking about growing up with abusive fathers broke attendance records for indoor programming in 2023, according to Julia Sagaser, Program Director of Camden Public Library.
"The one word running through my mind to describe the event is 'Incredible,’" Sagaser said. "I felt so proud to be a part of this community and to be a part of the evening.”
On November 28, Scott Denman, of Belmont; Dana Ward, of Belfast and Biddeford; and Jory Squibb, of Camden, spoke to over 90 people gathered in the Camden Public Library about the terror of growing up with angry and controlling fathers, how that impacted their adult relationships, and the sometimes rocky paths to healing.
Facilitating the discussion was Jon Wilson, a Finding Our Voices board member who founded WoodenBoat publications and school, as well as the nonprofit JUST Alternatives which facilitates dialogue between victims of violent crime and their perpetrators.
Sagaser has been the library’s program director since October 2022. She said, "Promoting the Finding Our Voices event, writing about it, and imagining it ahead of time was one thing; experiencing it was completely another. It blew my expectations out of the water.
"I was blown away not only by the sheer number of people but also by how they showed up with such compassion and openness to dialogue,” she said. “Thanks to the panelists, that space became safe and sacred. I was very moved by the acts of genuine listening, open curiosity, and calls to action that came from the audience. Love prevailed. I truly felt so proud to be a part of this community and to be a part of the evening.
"It also became very clear to me that creating a space and platform for these kinds of community experiences and discussions is crucial in the mission to end the silence and break the cycle of domestic abuse. I hope, like I do, others who attended feel empowered to initiate similar efforts in other communities they are a part of. I am very glad the Camden Public Library could provide that space.”
Panelist Scott Denman said: "I’m in awe after experiencing the compassionate intensity and power of this event. It was extraordinary, publicly honest, and healing. The audience and speakers shared a bond of trauma and recovery. When asked to raise their hands if they had ever experienced domestic abuse, more than three quarters of the 90 or so people present did so.
"Domestic violence and abuse of any kind is most often a man’s issue. We as the male of the species must take responsibility for perpetrating the cycle of abuse and, by doing so, help break this horrific cycle and social sickness.
"Patrisha McLean and Finding Our Voices deserve tremendous credit for envisioning and organizing the “Men Talking: Growing up with Abusive Fathers & Breaking the Cycle” public forum. Jon did an exemplary job of moderating. And I am grateful to the Camden Library and its staff for hosting this vital event.”
The Camden event capped the Finding Our Voices “Let’s Talk About It” 2023 statewide tour of survivors sharing their stories of domestic abuse, then leading community conversations on the issue. The grassroots nonprofit’s tour started in Waterville in February, then traveled to libraries in Freeport, Northeast Harbor, Bar Harbor, Millinocket, York, Kennebunk, Rockport, and Damariscotta. The panelists on the previous nine stops were women.
Sponsors of the November 28 Finding Our Voices library event were Gartley & Dorsky, Rickey Celentano, Leslie Curtis Designs, Stephen and Helene Huyler, Camden Whole Health, Allen Agency, Andrea Atkin, Sharyn Pohlman, Becky and Doug Thompson, Deb Dodge, Lorraine and Phillip Streat, and Carver Hill Gallery. Catering and lodging were provided by French & Brawn, Lord Camden Inn, and The Samoset.
Patrisha McLean is CEO/founder of Finding Our Voices.
She said: “More and more men coming up to me and confiding that they grew up with abusive fathers is what led me to put together this program. It aligns with the central mission of Finding Our Voices — to get people talking about domestic abuse, from all kinds of angles, because domestic abuse is complicated and impacts everyone whether they realize it or not.” She added, “Domestic abuse is a huge problem in Maine, and the first step to solving any problem is to shine a light on it. That is what we are doing with our campaign of posters featuring the photo portraits of 45 Maine survivors, and what we are also doing with these survivor-led community conversations.
“Camden Public Library Director Nikki Maounis launched Finding Our Voices on Valentine’s Day 2019 when she said YES to my groundbreaking exhibit of photo portraits and audio of 14 domestic abuse survivors. So it felt good to finish up a quite amazing year for Finding Our Voices in the warm and supportive space of my hometown library."
A 2024 “Let’s Talk About It” tour is in the works, and a video recording of the Camden "Men Talking" event will soon be available on the Finding Our Voices website and the Camden Public Library's YouTube channel.
Finding Our Voices is the Camden-based grassroots and survivor-powered nonprofit breaking the silence of domestic abuse across Maine one community and conversation at a time. Sister-support provided by the group includes emergency funding for shelter, car, legal, security, and food expenses, the pro bono dental program Finding Our Smiles, healing retreats, and online support groups. For more information or to make a donation visit FindingOurVoices.net or contact Patrisha directly at 207 322 6460.