The Safe Campus Project at the University of Maine is a program working to improve awareness and prevention of sexual assault and dating violence on campus. April’s events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month will help further their message to the university community.
“This is a month to promote awareness, education and prevention. It is a time to acknowledge the problem of sexual assault and to take a stand against it as individuals and as a community,” said Summer Sunderland, one of the graduate assistants for the Safe Campus Project.
The Safe Campus Project, formed in February 2001, is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice, which totaled $302,256 for a two-year period. UMaine is one of just 18 schools that received the grant.
“The grant really was a unique opportunity,” said Renate Klein, director of the Safe Campus project.
Klein said the grant helped develop new and existing resources on campus for people struggling with sexual assault, dating or domestic violence or stalking. The program includes a drop-in advocacy office, outreach programs and educational events, such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
The month’s events will kick off with keynote speaker David Ryder from Men Can Stop Rape, a national sexual assault prevention organization based in Washington, D.C., Monday, April 15. Men Can Stop Rape is a group that the Safe Campus Project uses as a consultant for the group Brothers Engaged Against Rape, one of their outreach programs.
Sigma Phi Epsilon was chosen by the Safe Campus project for B.E.A.R to help get Greek men involved with the issues of rape and sexual assault. The fraternity has participated in helping educate others about these issues and hopes to have more public events in the future, including a “Rock Against Rape” concert that is being planned for next semester.
Nick Pike, chaplain of Sigma Phi Epsilon and chairperson for the B.E.A.R. program, said being a part of the Safe Campus Project is a way to reach the community about violence issues and also conveys an important aspect of the fraternity.
“One of the principles of our fraternity is respect for self and others,” Pike said. “Rape and sexual assault are the epitome of what I stand against.”
Hillary Maher, another graduate assistant for the Safe Campus Project and liaison for the B.E.A.R. program, said Sigma Phi Epsilon and the Greek community at UMaine have been wonderful to work with. She hopes to get fraternities and sororities involved in the issues on a larger scale and hopes the program will help eliminate some of the negative stereotypes against fraternities.
“Fraternities do a lot, they have a lot to offer,” Maher said.
Another outreach program that the Safe Campus Project is involved with is UMaine Men’s Education Network, which gives men at UMaine a chance to get involved in violence prevention.
“There wasn’t a place for men’s involvement before,” said Sunderland, who is the liaison for UMaine MEN.
The Safe Campus Project along with B.E.A.R and UMaine MEN are gearing up for April’s events, especially the annual Take Back the Night rally and march, planned for Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. in front of Fogler Library.
“It’s really meaningful when people get together for a big event like this. It really energizes a community about the issues,” Sunderland said.