One out of every three women and one out of every seven men will be sexually assaulted, according to the Rape Response Services Web site. Rape is the most underreported crime in the United States.
Considering such daunting figures, sexual assault is a significant problem everywhere. In hopes of increasing awareness and decreasing sexual assault cases, April has been named Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Rape Response Services of Bangor, along with the Safe Campus Project and several other groups at the University of Maine, has organized events for the week of April 14 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Sexual Assault Awareness Week is a collaborative effort. Plans began to formulate early this semester. Members from the Safe Campus Project, Rape Response Services, the Student Women’s Association, Athletes for Sexual Responsibility, Brothers Engaged Against Rape, UMaine Men’s Education Network, Public Safety, Greek Peer Educators and various fraternities and sororities have all contributed to the different events.
“I think it is incredible that there are so many people who are committed and dedicated to bringing awareness [to] help make this community a safer and better place,” Carey Nason, project coordinator with the Safe Campus Project said. “It’s been the most awesome experience working with all these people.”
Nason, a UMaine alumna, has been an advocate for Rape Response Services for the past five years.
Members from the various groups will man a table in Memorial Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Passers-by can pick up a teal ribbon to show support and learn other ways to take a stand against sexual assault.
People can also tie ribbons on the mall all week to honor victims and survivors of sexual assault.
Part one of a two-part panel discussion titled, “What Do Guys Really Think?” will be held in Aroostook Hall at 7 p.m. Monday, April 14. The open panel discussion focuses on what it means to be a guy, relationships and sex.
This is the first year a male panel has been part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, organizer Julie Rothhaar, said. Rothhaar and others helped plan the panel as part of a service learning component of HED 562, “a class titled Impact of College on Students.” Rothhaar created the panel because she thought the male population was “overlooked and underrepresented.”
“Many times this population is left out of the discussion and therefore it is thought they are not affected by the violence,” Rothhaar said. “However, this is not true, and my panel will start to break down outdated ideas and concepts about the male population of a college campus.”
UMaine Men and Men Can Stop Rape played a large role in making the panel possible, Rothhaar said.
The second part of “What Do Guys Really Think?” will be held Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in 101 Neville Hall and features a showing of “Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity.” The film was written by Jackson Katz, one of the leading anti-sexist male activists in America and was released in 1999. The film explores the social construction of masculine identities. The Sociology of Domestic Violence project group will sponsor part two of the panel.
“It really challenges a lot of the things that we accept,” Nason said. “We think that men are just naturally aggressive and naturally violent, but that’s not necessarily true.”
Representatives from Athletes for Sexual Responsibility, BEAR, UMaine Men, Greek Peer Educators and other campus groups will be present at both parts of the panel discussion to talk about their experiences and address questions.
Also on Tuesday will be “Ready, Willing, and Able: A Discussion About Consent,” at 12:30 p.m. Representatives from Peer Educators, Judicial Affairs, Rape Response Services and the Counseling Center will share their thoughts on consent.
On Thursday, April 17 the Clothesline Project will be displayed on the mall. The project is a collection of T-shirts designed by survivors and supporters of victims of sexual assault across Maine. The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault displays the T-shirt collection across the state.
“It’s amazing to see the strength that shows through,” Nason said. The T-shirts bear witness of the pain caused by sexual assault, she said.
The annual “Take Back the Night” rally will close Sexual Assault Awareness Week Thursday night. The rally kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and the march begins at 7:30 p.m. Speakers and a speak-out will highlight the event, including Public Safety Chief Noel March, Crime Prevention Specialist Deborah Mitchell and representatives from Rape Response Services. The march will conclude with food and entertainment by Inanna -Sisters in Rhythm at the Wooley Room in DTAV.
Last year, more than 250 people attended “Take Back the Night.” More are expected this year, she said.
“It has been growing and growing,” Nason said.
Dr. Sandy Caron’s “Women Talk About Sex” radio call-in show will have a show focused issues of sexual assault on Thursday, April 10. The radio show is from 10 to 11 p.m. on WMEB 91.9.
Several services and resources are available outside of Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Rape Response Services offers free, confidential services such as information on medical and court procedures, referrals and a 24-hour hotline.
The Safe Campus Project holds office hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Friday by appointment. Staff members help individuals with problem solving and figuring out their options, Nason said.
“Each person has their own personal needs,” Nason said. “We try to work with each person individually.”
The Safe Campus Project provides workshops and presentations focused on sexual violence, dating violence and stalking to any group by request. The staff at the Safe Campus Project has allowed individuals to use their office space in East Annex to make calls to the 24-hour hotline and they collaborate with the Counseling Center.
A Domestic Abuse Education Group for Women is offered campus on Thursdays this month from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.