In hopes of raising awareness and promoting prevention regarding sexual and domestic violence, students and community members led a candle-lit vigil and march across campus to “Take Back the Night” at dusk on Thursday.
“There are more than 200 attempted and/or completed sexual assaults on campus per year,” Carey Nason of Safe Campus said. “One in three college women are raped, yet nine out of 10 will never report it.”
Take Back the Night is a world wide tradition that dedicates an evening for communities and campuses, women and men to support non-violence and raise awareness about violence against women.
The event provided an opportunity for students to stand up against rape, sexual harassment and other abuse that affects women, children and families, and gave attendants a chance to speak and inform others of their dangers. Many students also sported purple and teal ribbons in support of raising awareness for these issues. Purple represents domestic violence, while teal stands for ending sexual assault.
Preceding the vigil and march through campus, students and community members met behind Fogler Library for music and speakers that took a stand against violence towards women. The all-women singing group Renaissance started the evening with a medley of songs.
Keynote speaker Sgt. Deb Mitchell said that these issues do not discriminate, and though the women have different faces, their stories are very much the same.
“Lives are shattered, and survivors perpetrate victims,” Mitchell said, suggesting that violence against women is a continuing cycle that must be broken.
Students from Male Athletes Against Violence (MAAV) spoke on the behalf of UMaine athletes and said it was important to them that people realize sexual and domestic violence is not just a woman’s problem but also an effort that must involve men.
“We need to start raising boys to be different kinds of men so that girls can grow up to be women without fear,” MAAV member Cully Wakelin said.
Other organizations that came to speak against sexual and domestic violence include Wilde Stein, Maine Peace Action Committee, Peer Education, Spruce Run, The Student Women’s Association, Rape Response Services, The Counciling Center, Safe Campus and the Justice Dept. The organizations each offered information to students including statistics, contact information, available hotlines and services that victims of abuse can utilize if they are having difficulty taking a stand in any violent situation.
At the end, students had the opportunity to share stories of their experiences with rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
While Take Back the Night is a start, many of the speakers noted that it will take more than just single events to end sexual and domestic violence.
Kim Roberts of Rape Response Services said, “It’s really not just about this event. Social change takes time. We start by taking back this night, and then every night, and then we take back the days, too.”