More than $100,000 has been distributed from Finding Our Voices to bring safety, freedom, and comfort to Maine women and children survivors of domestic abuse through the group’s Get Out Stay Out Fund.
According to Patrisha McLean, president/founder of the grassroots survivor-powered nonprofit, in two years $113,640 was disbursed to 184 women from every county in Maine, about 80 percent of whom are mothers of young children.
The money has mostly funded shelter, car, legal, utility, and food expenses to enable Maine women to flee domestic violence and take their first steps toward independence. Support includes short term emergency motel stays, apartment rent and security deposits; gas cards, car insurance, registration, and repairs, and legal assistance.
“Our peer-to-peer funding mitigates the financial abuse, i.e. control that is a key factor in trapping women and children in dangerous family situations by providing the resources necessary to escape, and to stay gone,” McLean said.
With its trademark quick response, the group has staved off evictions and in one case, the repossession of a car scheduled for that afternoon, Mclean said. The car owner let Finding Our Voices know they were her “Hail Mary pass” to keep her job and chance of financial independence.
Last week, $380 from the fund took the lock off of a storage unit that contained a woman’s possessions including photos, artwork, and health records of her child. Her ex is facing numerous felony charges for a violent rampage during which he told this child “You will never see your mother alive again.”
Last week the fund also provided diapers and formula for a woman who fled with her infant after her ex, who was the sole support for them “strangled me then stood on my neck with all of his weight,” she told Finding Our Voices. “Anything, and I mean anything is appreciated as my whole life has changed in the blink of an eye.”
Most disbursements come with a personal message of sister-support as well as helpful books and a natural, healing balm created especially for Finding Our Voices by Tracey Wylie on her farm in Union.
Finding Our Voices works with a wide and growing network of referral partners from across the state for this funding, including homeless shelters, domestic abuse agencies, district attorney offices, Maine Association for New Americans, therapists, Maine Behavioral Health, Community Action Partners, recovery networks, and employee navigation departments at such companies as Goodwill.
According to McLean, the Get Out Stay Out fund was seeded in 2021 with a $50,000 grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation. Boosts since then include private donations and grants from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, 100-plus Women Who Care Southern Maine, and WEX Inc.
Other Finding Our Voices programs include pro-bono dental care, weekly online support groups, healing retreats, and workshops with songwriting, memoir writing, and horses.
Finding Our Voices started in 2019 as an exhibit of McLean’s photo portraits of survivors of domestic abuse. Now these portraits of 45 survivors aged 18 to 83 including herself, her daughter, an incarcerated woman, and Governor Janet T. Mills, are in downtown business windows and public bathrooms as posters all across the state. For more information about Finding Our Voices, go to findingourvoices.net.