ROCKLAND — Late in the afternoon on Friday, Feb. 15, the day after Patrisha McLean’s multimedia project on domestic violence, “Finding Our Voices, Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse,” opened at Camden Public Library, Eric Morse, a lawyer representing Don McLean, singer-songwriter of “American Pie” fame and Patrisha’s ex-husband, sent an email to The Free Press and later to Pen Bay Pilot.

It demanded each newspaper “cease and desist republishing defamatory statements that damage Mr. McLean’s reputation and character” and threatened a lawsuit. The lawyer’s email referred to articles that ran in advance of the opening of the show.

A power and control wheel filled out by a survivor of domestic violence, that appears as part of Patrisha McLean’s exhibit, “Finding Our Voices, Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse,” now at Camden Public Library. Submitted photo

Jeannine Oren, one of the women who tells her story in the show at the library, said Monday after seeing Morse’s letter, “So now we are all watching domestic abuse in real time.”

“I finally got away, and now after three years it’s still going on,” Patrisha McLean said Sunday during an interview after seeing the lawyer’s letter. “He’s hounding me every step I take, intimidating me, intimidating the media. It’s back to square one. It’s all about him. He uses his money and fame to intimidate and threaten. It is hard. I am afraid.”

But, said Patrisha, who is dedicated to continuing her work on domestic abuse and as an advocate for reform of the legal system’s handling of cases involving domestic violence and abuse, “I want the truth to be out and stay out. I found my voice. I want to keep my voice. I want it to grow stronger and I want to help other people find their voice. I want the power and control to stop. I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but maybe the power of our voices can overcome the control of our abusers. I’m going to continue the best I can. But when does it end? We’ve been divorced for three years, yet still that letter demonstrates every one of the power and control issues associated with domestic abuse.”

Don McLean was arrested about 2 a.m. Jan. 18, 2016, at the couple’s home in Camden.

The exhibit at the library includes a panel with Patrisha’s Jan. 19, 2016, protection from abuse order statement describing the events leading up to Don’s arrest that night, with photos of what she describes in the statement. Details of some of the photos of her bruises that are part of the exhibit at the library are shown here.

According to Patrisha, she escaped into the bathroom and called 911 for help after what she has described as hours of being terrorized, pinned on the bed, hit and threatened by her husband. When police arrived, she begged them not to arrest him, but Maine’s domestic violence arrest policies mandate arrest when there is probable cause to believe that aggravated assault has occurred.

He was charged with domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief, criminal restraint, domestic violence terrorizing and obstructing report of crime or injury. Under the terms of a deferred disposition plea deal negotiated by Don McLean and his lawyer with the prosecutor, in July 2016 Don McLean pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief and criminal restraint, and the terrorizing and obstructing report of crime or injury charges were dismissed.

The plea deal included conditions that he have no contact with Patrisha and that he have a mental health evaluation. So long as he met the conditions over the course of the following year, the domestic violence assault charge would be dismissed.

On July 20, 2017, the court found that he had abided by the conditions of the agreement and the domestic violence assault charge was dismissed, but he was convicted of domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief and criminal restraint. He paid about $3,600 — $1,000 for each crime plus some fees — and the case was settled.

In a Feb. 4 interview on “The Chris Wolf Show” on Maine Coast TV, Patrisha said that after her husband’s arrest made worldwide news, “the silence was broken and all of a sudden everything really got better from then on.”

As she said in the interview with Chris Wolf, “Everyone probably thought we had a charmed life in the mansion up on the hill,” but she said she was silent about the physical and emotional abuse that was part of their 29-year marriage. “I was silent about it — it was to protect his career and because I loved him and wanted to protect him.”

She divorced her husband in June 2016.

After the arrest became public, she said that “everyone was coming up to me and telling me their stories — so it was like a veil had lifted … this is the reality, it’s going on everywhere, but no one knows about it because no one’s talking about it. Everyone keeps it to themselves.”

It was that realization, she said, that led to her planning the exhibit that’s at the library.

She is still wrestling with countless questions about how the legal system handles domestic abuse cases. As she said, “I wanted to testify. I wanted accountability. What other crime has people not wanting to press charges — except in the case of victims of domestic abuse a preponderance of the time? So when you finally have someone who wants to testify, why not go to trial? Why instead offer deferred disposition in the case of such a serious charge as domestic violence?”

Meanwhile, McLean’s exhibit provides answers for another maybe too-often-asked question: “Why is it so hard for women to walk away?” The exhibit, she said, was put together to answer that very question. And it does that, perhaps in a clearer voice than has ever been heard before.

“Finding Our Voices” is on view at Camden Public Library — the first stop on its statewide tour — through February. The website for McLean’s project is findingourvoices.net — and, she said, the website can be of particular value to those for whom bringing home literature about domestic abuse is too risky.

Alice McFadden is the longtime publisher and executive editor of The Free Press, as well as interim general manager of Courier Publications.


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