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Art and activism intersect for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Beginning in 1981, October has been recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the University of Maine’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality (WGS) department has been hard at work spreading the word across campus.

The month-long series of events kicked off on Oct. 3 with a March to End Domestic Violence, followed by the installation of New York City-based artist and education activist Traci Malloy’s recent collaboration “Against My Will” on the University Mall.

Molloy was brought to campus through coordination between Director Susan Gardner from the WGS department and Assistant Professor Susan Camp from the art department. Camp and Malloy are co-founders of the Lithops collective, a collaborative group dedicated to social practice, and Camp brought the idea to Gardner this summer.

“We’re interested in getting people thinking about how sexual violence happens all over, and often by people we’re not expecting, whether it’s our spouse or significant other or the person living down the hall from us,” said Gardner.

“Too often we are told that the rapists and abusers are those who lurk in bushes in the dark,” said Gardner, “but partner and peer violence is by far the most prevalent.”

The discussion of domestic violence often goes hand-in-hand with discussions about sexual violence, which is the topic of “Against My Will.” In a July of 2018 statement for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Molloy described “Against My Will” as a “site-specific installation featuring 22 double-sided vinyl light post banners made in partnership with individuals that experienced trauma due to sexual assault.”

Molloy collected stories from 22 women who currently attend or are alumni of Alfred University, Molloy’s alma mater, about their experiences with rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“Many of the project’s participants have never shared their assault stories with anyone prior to this collaboration,” Molloy wrote.

Molloy gave a talk on her project on Thursday, Oct. 4 in Minsky Hall. According to Gardner, Molloy is interested in returning to campus in April 2019, where she would do a similar project, this time using students from UMaine. This would align with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but funding is a key issue.

“Against My Will” will be featured on the Mall until Oct. 25. There are still more Domestic Violence Awareness Month events to come, including Take Back the Night on Oct. 16 in the North Pod, hosted by the Feminist Collective. There will also be a showing and discussion of the “The Voiceless,” a documentary centered round five male survivors of sexual violence, on Oct. 24 in the Donald P. Corbett building, room 100.

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