Students, faculty and community members carrying messages of hope, heartbreak, healing and forgiveness lined the University of Maine mall outside the library Tuesday to pay tribute to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Nearly 200 people attended the Safe Campus Project sponsored event and listened to stories about sexual assault. Orono State Representative Emily Cain gave a keynote speech.
Take Back the Night is a national event to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence against women. The name came from a 1977 memorial read by Anne Pride at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburg.
The event consisted of a rally followed by a march and a candlelight vigil. Many wore purple ribbons or T-shirts in support of victims.
Organizations like UMaine’s Safe Campus Project, which deals with domestic and sexual violence, work to make sure that stories of victims do not go unheard. Angel Shaw, a rape response worker, spoke about the organization.
“Sexual assault really happens more than we like to think,” Shaw said. “I’m not big on statistics because I really believe that one person affected by sexual assault is one person too many.”
The Counseling Center and the Mabel Wadsworth Center came out in support, offering brochures, posters and pens depicting information and stories from past victims.
Katie McCarthy, who works with Spruce Run in Bangor, said people must “really work on changing the culture so that we tolerate abuse. We’re all going to work together to do what we can and by speaking up and saying violence is not OK.”
That message was echoed throughout the night, both in speeches and songs by the female a capella group Renaissance. The group sang songs including Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
Former Renaissance member and UMaine graduate Rep. Emily Cain took the stage to share her thoughts about sexual abuse.
“One of the best things we can do to make us safer is to not be afraid to talk,” Rep. Cain said. “When we talk, we are breaking down that silence, and we are helping those victims to not be afraid, to not be ashamed.”
Rep. Cain also encouraged students to go out and have conversations with friends and partners about domestic and sexual abuse.
The event ended with stories from victims and a candlelight march around campus. October marks Domestic Abuse Month. For more information on Sexual Abuse, contact Carey Nason with the Safe Campus Project.