The USM Campus Safety Project organized a week of events to call attention to domestic violence and sexual assault, including a Take Back the Night march on the Gorham campus Wednesday and a display of people’s experiences and feelings about domestic and sexualized violence on t-shirts hung in Gorham.
About thirty people gathered in Hastings Formal Lounge in Gorham for a rally Wednesday evening before marching.
“We want to promote awareness and safety on campus,” said Hannah Bendroth, the residential director for Dickey and Wood halls in Gorham. “We hope to bring together the two campuses.”
The term “Take Back the Night” is part of a national movement against sexual violence against women. The term originated in a speech made at an anti-violence rally in Pittsburgh 1977, though the Take Back the Night website identifies a 1975 rally in Philadelphia as the first such event. Take Back the Night Marches traditionally promote empowerment of women and reclaiming public spaces from perpetrators of violence.
According to Lyndsay Grace-Sanborn, the coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center in Portland, USM’s events differ from the typical Take Back the Night Event. “We take a broader approach at USM, focusing on all sexual violence,” she said.
The events this week began Tuesday with the Clothesline Project. Participants wrote on T-shirts their experiences and feelings about domestic and sexualized violence against women. Participants then wore the shirts or hung them on a clothesline in the Brooks Student Center in Gorham.
Following the rally Wednesday, those assembled marched around campus, escorted by Director of Public Safety Kevin Conger and Lt. Ron Saindon. During the march the group chanted slogans thought up beforehand, and coming up with imrpovised chants of their own.
After marching around the Gorham campus, the marchers returned to Hastings Formal Lounge for a speakout about sexual violence, where people shared their experiences. “A speakout is really important because people aren’t being stigmatized or blamed,” said Clara Porter, program director for the Campus Safety Project. “People can hear and be heard.”
Following the speakout, students held a candlelight vigil for victims of sexual violence.