“Stupid bitch whore. Crazy slut. You asked for it,” screamed one of them. Another simply said, “In memory of Jennifer, killed when she was 11 by her father.”
These words are plastered on two of the many T-shirts strung along the Mall in honor of the Take Back the Night rally. The T-shirts are part of the Clothesline Project, sponsored by Spruce Run Shelter for Women, and were made by survivors or families of abuse victims to break the silence surrounding abuse.
The rally, another way to break the silence, started in Bangor in 1984 to raise awareness about women’s assault issues.
Upwards of 200 men and women turned out to a damp, dark mall last night for the annual rally. Many held candles, and all turned out to speak, listen and relate personal stories of assault, rape and molestation through a portable microphone on the steps of Fogler Library. Others spoke not from personal experience but to raise awareness.
“The most important part of Take Back the Night is the speak out portion; it is an opportunity for any woman to make her voice heard, break the silence,” Wren Anderson, one of six project coordinators, said.
“Every day of your life, you deserve to feel safe,” Jenny Lyons, one of many speakers, said while holding the microphone in one hand and a lit white candle in the other.
Some participants lit candles in vigil of the cause. Others lit them in memory of their own experiences, still others in memory of friends’ experiences. The candles illuminated the dimly lit area, adding a sense of magnitude to the diverse mass of people before the library.
Officer Deborah Mitchell, crime prevention officer for Public Safety, and students from her self-defense class ended the speak out session by executing defense moves accompanied with a firm, “No!”
“Let us take back the night,” Sharon Barker of the Women’s Resource Center, said. “We will do it with vigor, we will do it with voice and we will be rowdy.”
The march was led by the flashing blue lights of Mitchell’s police cruiser. The group could be heard shouting rallying cries in unison as they parted Fogler Library, marched past Balentine Hall and down College Avenue, then past Memorial Gym and back to the library.
“The purpose of the march is to take back the night, to yell down the streets together that we want to feel safe in our community. Silence is what keeps abuse alive,” Anderson said. “This is a rally and march to symbolize the support that women do have, that we are not alone.”
Many men also marched, most notably a large group of brothers from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
“We live in a community of both men and women – nobody can be left out,” Anderson said.
Bob Franklin, assistant director of Residence Life and Programs, related a story from the first Take Back the Night Rally in Bangor. Men in that group watched the children as women marched.
After the speak-out session ended, Mitchell suggested women take her free self-defense course.
“It doesn’t cost you a penny to empower yourself,” she said.
She told women to look on FirstClass or to get in touch with her personally for information on the next course offering.