The Safe Campus Project celebrated its second year with an annual candlelight vigil last Thursday on the riverfront, near the Steam Plant lot.
Candles were passed along a line of students as the names of those victimized by domestic violence in the last three years were acknowledged.
“We wanted a way to actively include everybody in attendance because domestic violence touches everybody,” Lisa Black, a graduate assistant in the project, said. “And it will take a community-wide effort to end it.”
In addition to honoring victims of domestic abuse, the vigil was also a way to show support for survivors.
“Domestic abuse thrives on secrecy and isolation, and when people attend events like this and take a stand against violence, it automatically helps to break that cycle,” Black said.
The Safe Campus Project, which officially began in February of 2001, is federally funded. The staff prepares a request with a budget for the Department of Justice every year. This request eventually is submitted for approval by Congress.
This is the second year that the University of Maine has been refunded by the Grant to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program. This grant is awarded to institutions of higher education to address sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. It is a cooperative agreement with the Violence Against Women Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and Office of Justice Program.
The two-year grant was due to run out this January until the project recently was informed they were going to be re-funded. The grants are very competitive since there isn’t enough money to go around to everyone who applies, Black said. The University of Maine is only one of 44 schools in the nation that receives this grant.
“It’s wonderful that we got re-funded because there are huge problems on college campuses and UMaine is no exception,” Black said.
This allocation of funds, among covering operating costs, employs the project director, Renate Klein, and coordinator Carey Nason. The project also has three graduate assistants, Hillary Maher, Summer Sunderland and Lisa Black.
This staff has no problem staying busy, often with concern that they cannot handle the workload they have been supplied , according to Nason.
In the future Nason said she would like to see additional outside funding, which could be used for more activities and a larger staff.
“If we had a larger staff, we could offer so much more for the university,” Nason said.
The project partners with many different community agencies, such as Spruce Run and Rape Response.
“Basically, if you can think of a way they might relate to Safe Campus, we’re probably working on them,” Black said.
Part of their mission is to provide information, education and resources for anyone who has questions or concerns about violence, stalking, sexual assault and religion.
All too often, students assume that this service is only available for women, according to Nason. Whether man or woman, the staff would be happy to sit down and talk to you, Nason said.
If someone has been sexually assaulted, Safe Campus staff will talk with them; however, people do not have to be victimized or know someone who was victimized to take advantage of the service. If someone has questions or concerns they can come into the office and talk to a staff member, Nason said.
“We are not counselors, but advocates to help support and provide information and resources for those of need,” Nason said.
Nason offers drop-in office hours on Mondays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in her office at 201 East Annex. She said she would love to sit and talk with anyone, answer questions and provide information, education and resources about sexual assault.
Meetings are always confidential and placed in a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere, Nason said. She encouraged people to stop by sometime to simply clear their minds, crash on her sofa and chat. Office hours were set up and intended for nothing else, Nason said.
Nason is also available by appointment. You can contact her at 581-2515, or through FirstClass.
“Everyone deserves to be safe,” Nason said.