Temperatures continued to drop below freezing and the wind was almost unbearable, but it did not keep the Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers from gathering outside Friday night.
This year was the fraternity’s 13th annual Sleep Out to raise money for rape-prevention education and spur awareness of the issue throughout the community.
The money aids Rape Response Services of Bangor in providing crisis intervention.
The organization offers support groups and community education in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
The brothers work to spread the message that rape is a prevalent issue and it is important for people to speak out.
“We raise money for Rape Responses of Bangor because it is such a tremendous organization,” said Beta brother Josh Fortier.
“We agreed to work with them because we feel that it says a lot for fraternity men to take a stand against rape because of all the stereotypes given to ‘frats,’ and it says a lot for any large group of men to finally say that this is not all right and we won’t just turn our heads.”
Beta usually attracts crowds with the big bonfire that goes along with the event; however, due to strong winds, they were unable to keep the permit necessary to host a bonfire.
Instead, people gathered around barrel fires to keep warm.
Andrew Knapp, Beta philanthropy chairman, said that while the bonfire is usually the primary source of attraction to the Sleep Out, they made the best of it.
“While people were walking to the Alfond to watch the hockey game, members of the fraternity, along with the help of members of a few sororities, asked people to contribute to the cause. Many did stop to purchase a raffle ticket,” said Knapp.
The brothers estimated that they raised more than $2,000, which exceeded their goal of $1,000.
This year, Beta hosted Ben Atherton-Zeman as their guest speaker.
Atherton-Zeman, a performer well-known for his one-man play “Voices of Men,” uses humor and male voice impressions to approach issues of sexual assault, consent, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment and objectification.
“When someone talks about those issues, whether it influences everyone to change their attitude or behavior is another story,” said Knapp. “As long as it makes some people just think twice before they act and think back on a situation and feel sympathy for someone else, we’ve done our job.”
Atherton-Zeman has 13 years of experience working at domestic violence programs and rape crisis centers, according to his Web site.
“Every two-and-a-half minutes somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted,” said Fortier. “One in six American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. It is also estimated that only 42 percent of all cases are actually reported; that means that 58 percent of victims hide cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“These numbers are mind- blowing when you think about them,” he continued. “We hope with the money we raise and any other organization donating to this cause that we can quickly and drastically lower these numbers. We also hope to help build a safer UMaine campus by helping Rape Responses of Bangor and spreading awareness.”