Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
ROCKLAND, Maine ― As public health officials warn millions of Americans to stay home amid the spread of COVID-19, many victims of domestic violence are living their worst nightmare trapped inside with their abusers.
“Being trapped with a dangerous man is the biggest nightmare I could ever imagine. It’s a perfect storm,” said Patrisha McLean, who works to raise awareness for domestic violence.
Her ex-husband, singer/songwriter Don McLean, pleaded guilty to domestic violence assault against her in 2016 in a high-profile court case, but the charges were dropped after he completed the terms of a plea agreement in 2017.
Many events of McLean’s “Finding Our Voices” awareness-raising campaign were canceled because of the pandemic, but she knew she still had to get the message out.
So she worked with about 50 business owners in Camden, Rockland and Rockport to erect large posters in downtown storefronts in an attempt to give abuse victims a lifeline during a time when many are more vulnerable than ever. The 4×2-feet posters feature a portrait of a domestic violence survivor, paired with a quote from them. There’s also a 24-hour hotline that offers help to those in need.
In addition to victims themselves, McLean said she hopes people who know victims of domestic violence will see the posters and are reminded to reach out to them. While abused partners, children and other victims can often get a reprieve from violence from running out to do errands or going to school, this pandemic has taken away those outlets.
“If you have no excuses to get out of the house or places to go you’re really really stuck. It makes me just cry to think about it,” McLean said.
A number of businesses displaying the posters are temporarily closed because of the pandemic. Even though these businesses are hurting at the moment, McLean said it shows how much heart owners have to give up window space.
The posters will be on display through May.
Last month, Through These Doors, a resource center for victims of domestic abuse, saw a 30 percent increase in calls, a spike that executive director Rebecca Hobbs called “significant,” though said it’s too soon to draw broad conclusions.
Some prosecutors are worried that with courts imposing limited hours because of the pandemic, abuse victims might not seek protection orders from abuse during this time. Marianne Lynch, the district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, issued a statement this week reminding “anyone who is experiencing domestic violence or who is in need of services, help is available.”
Lynch said that while courthouse hours are limited, they are still open for services such as protection from abuse orders. Before going to the courthouse, people should call to confirm hours of operation.
Watch: Janet Mills speaks to people who think they’re not at risk