Women, men, decorated shoes and candles gathered in front of Fogler Library on Tuesday to “Take Back the Night.” The annual event is held in efforts to stop rape and domestic violence and provide those affected by these acts with a forum to speak.
Teal Rancourt, an organizer of the event, said it was an important part of life at the University of Maine.
“It’s been a tradition here for a while,” she said.
She said that one year there was talk of not holding the event, but so many voiced their displeasure that the event went on.
“The reason we do it is because there is a need for it on this campus,” she said.
Rancourt said that by hearing others speak of their own experiences, attendants would be able to see that they are not alone in their stuggles.
“It gives everyone a chance to support other people,” she said. “It gives them a chance to know there are other people out there.”
She said that the part of the night that had the most meaning for many was the open microphone portion, where everyone is free to stand in front of the crowd, share their story and offer support.
“That’s what a lot of people come for,” she said.
Rancourt said that she was pleased by the number of people who attended the gathering, although she had hoped for a larger crowd.
“It’s not as large as I’d hoped, but it’s hard for people to get out this time of year,” she said.
However, she said that the size of the audience was certainly not the point of the event.
“Even if we only had a few people here it would still be worth it,” she said.
The evening began by a performance of the all-female a cappella group Renaissance, who entertained the crowd before the speaking began.
Carey Nason helped open the event by talking about Rape Response Services and the Safe Campus Project. She congratulated the Student Women’s Association, one of the night’s sponsors.
“SWA did such an awesome job. There are so many people getting together to support each other,” she said.
Nason also read a letter from Gov. John Baldacci, who apologized for missing the event. In the letter, he gave praise to the event, and offered hope to victims of domestic violence.
“There is hope. Victims must know they need not suffer in silence,” he wrote. “We need to support all victims tonight and every night.”
Assistant Dean of Students Kenda Scheele also took the stage to talk about her experience of living with a college roommate who was raped.
“I commend everyone here who’s supporting folks,” she said. “Hats off to all of you for being here today.”
One by one, people went in front of the microphone to share their stories of abuse, or to speak on behalf of a loved one.
Another special guest was Carol Ayoob, who had come from Aroostook County to sing at the end of the event. She said that through work at a battered women’s shelter, she has learned how important events such as “Take Back The Night” are to the healing process.
“One of the things I’ve come to realize is that these are not just stories, they are real events,” she said.
Ayoob said more had to be done to prevent these atrocities from taking place.
“Don’t just speak here, speak in the form of letters to our leaders,” she said.
After the speaking portion, the attendants lit candles and proceeded to march around campus, chanting affirmations of their strength. While the wind made it difficult for the flames to remain lit, it did nothing to lessen the voices of the marchers.