Students March for Violence Free Communities, via The Daily Bulldog:

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FARMINGTON – For the previous 16 years, students and supporters have marched along Main Street to raise awareness for sexual and domestic violence.

This year was no exception, with students gathering outside the University of Maine at Farmington Olsen Student Center on South Street and marching through the downtown. A Speak Out even followed the march, after students returned to the student center’s North Dining Hall.

The event is held in conjunction with the end of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

 

 

(Thank you to everyone who participated, and to the UMF Campus Violence Prevention Coalition for your help in the planning process!)

Youths Learn from Media Portrayals, by Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson, via The SunJournal:

(Article 4 of 4 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

The media storm surrounding the “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise is enormous and varied. So many opinions and beliefs are swirling and social media is clogged about the actions of main character Anastasia Steele.

Did she consent? Could she consent? Is this a portrayal of domestic violence and sexual assault, or two adults engaged in a consensual relationship?

During the hype, the educators at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Center have used these questions to engage young people in dialog around sexual assault, healthy relationships and defining consent. Indeed, using media both maligned and loved is an important tool in sparking conversations with the public, especially teens and young adults.

In light of the ever-expanding technology waiting at our fingertips, engaging youth in critical thinking about media is an important tool in helping them understand and develop healthy relationships.

For instance, we encourage youth to analyze the ads they see on TV and to ask these questions: What are the selling tactics? How is sexuality used to sell a certain product? Does that make any sense and does it go too far? What roles do men and women play in this ad and are those appropriate or stereotypical?

That helps young people develop critical thinking about what they are being sold.

Those media portrayals help us educate young people while providing them with the tools to look at the world through a lens that examines what a healthy relationship looks like, how to achieve healthy relationships and also what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like.

For the past year we have been handing out “I CONSENT” stickers to teens and young adults. This campaign has been hugely successful in educating others on what consent is and what it looks like in a sexual relationship. We also use movies to help young people further explore these concepts and illustrate healthy behavior.

One of those movies, “The Other Sister,” has a scene between the main characters that effectively demonstrates the idea of obtaining consent before becoming physically intimate. The characters in that movie have a conversation about their different comfort levels. One expresses the desire to engage in sexual activity right now, while the other is unsure and would like to wait. The partner who wishes to become intimate respects the other’s feelings and does not push or pressure them, thus providing a perfect model for respect in a healthy relationship.

These types of media examples can be helpful to young people who may not know how to start conversations about consent. Perhaps they are unsure what consent is. Perhaps they had no idea that they have the right to say “no” to things they may not want to do even when their partner would like to.

Offering education around consent by using the media often creates a safer environment for participants because the focus of the group is on the screen, not on the participants in the educational setting.

Our education and presentations around media are always followed up by an opportunity for participants to further explore those issues. Participants are given time to engage critical thinking skills in a safer environment.

That type of education can be greatly rewarding to the individuals we serve. Students often approach us later about a show or advertisement they saw and say things such as “Can you believe that guy in the movie who never even checked in with his partner before having sex with them when they obviously looked uncomfortable?”

Hopefully, these conversations also happen between peers — kids challenging their friends to think about what they are consuming in the media and how that affects their perceptions and behaviors.

While many people had strong opinions on the “Fifty Shades” series, SAPARS educators have opted to keep talking about the issues we always have: healthy relationships, sexual assault, gender issues, consent and how to think critically about the information, images and concepts presented to us through the multitude of media we encounter.

Bridget McAlonan and Molly Nelson are educator/advocates at Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

17th annual March for Violence-Free Communities!

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For the previous 16 years, we have gathered at the gazebo in downtown Farmington, then marched to the Speak Out at the Old South Church. This year, on Wednesday, April 29th, at 5:30 PM, we will be beginning and ending at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF)! Participants will gather outside of the Student Center on South Street, and the Speak Out will take place in the North Dining Hall inside of the Student Center.

If desired, all participants will have the opportunity to speak out and share their thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding all forms of violence.

There is a new coalition at UMF called the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC). This Coalition is composed of students, faculty, and staff, and their mission is to promote a safe campus by reducing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Those involved with CVPC are excited to help plan, and bring the March to their school.

Light refreshments will be served.

Keynote speaker: TBA

Non-consensual pornography increasingly an issue that must be addressed, via the SunJournal:

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(Article 3 of 4 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

In this world, our private information is less private than ever. With the click of a button, private images can be posted for millions of people to see. In an era of digital communication, Maine’s sexual assault support centers are seeing that non-consensual pornography is increasingly an issue for the clients we serve.

A bill before the Maine Legislature — LD 679 —  would criminalize non-consensual pornography, commonly known as revenge porn. The bill, which has dozens of co-sponsors, would make the intentional distribution of explicit material without permission illegal if the subject is identifiable. The bill would make such distribution a Class D crime, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

To some, that may seem like a small price for offenders who have sought to ruin the lives of their victims.

It is difficult to quantify the impact of non-consensual pornography. However, we know that victims of this behavior face significant and specific harm, including harm to relationships with friends, family, and co-workers; and harm to future educational and professional prospects.

Sexual assault advocates across the state work with victims of revenge porn each year. After her name and intimate photos of her were posted on several websites by an ex-boyfriend, one Maine victim has moved out of the community where she has lived all of her life, is in the process of changing her name, has developed severe anxiety and agoraphobia, feels humiliated and ashamed, and has told the advocate she is working with, “I will never be in a relationship ever again.”

Unfortunately for some victims, the impact does not end there. Due to the public nature of non-consensual pornography, victims often receive threats of additional sexual violence, stalking and harassment. This is especially significant, given that a recent study of victims demonstrates that, along with distributed images, 59 percent had their full name posted, 26 percent had their email address posted, 16 percent had their physical home address posted, and 14 percent had their work address posted.

Sometimes, in addition to the images, further information is shared, including the names of siblings and parents, bank account information, passwords and links to social media accounts.

In another Maine case, the link to the website where a victim’s photos were posted (without her consent) was sent to organizations where she was applying for internships — all from her email account, which had been hacked.

People who choose to take photos of themselves often do so with the understanding and firm belief that the photos will never be shared outside of their consensual relationship. Sometimes, those relationships change and the photos are then distributed, or a threat to distribute them is made. In other circumstances, the photos are taken under duress or via coercion.

And yet, victims are often blamed for an offender’s actions. Instead of asking, “What would make someone do that to someone else?” victims are generally asked, “Why did you send him that photo in the first place? What were you thinking?”

However, blaming the victim means we refuse to hold the real party responsible — the offender. Just like other forms of sexual violence, preventing revenge porn includes holding offenders accountable. Criminalizing revenge porn will help mitigate its consequences.

With all types of sexual activity, consent must be free, willing and ongoing. The same standard must be applied with regard to the disclosure of private images. The law recognizes that a customer’s consent to giving his credit card to a waiter to run a tab is not consent for that waiter to use the information on a personal shopping spree.

Permitting someone use of information in one context does not — and should not — mean consent in other contexts.

Cara Courchesne, a Lewiston native, is the communications director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Commercial Sex Industry Flourishes in the U.S., by Keri Myrick, via The SunJournal:

(Article 2 of 4 during April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

When you hear the phrase “commercial sexual exploitation of children,” what do you think?

You may think that sex trafficking only happens overseas to young girls. Actually, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking occur every day in the United States. Its victims are male, female and transgender youths living in cities and small towns across America. The average age of introduction into the commercial sex trade industry is 12 years old.

Do you think these children who are commercially sexually exploited or trafficked for sex are recognized as victims of crime and abuse?

Actually, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is child abuse. However, children and adolescent victims are often arrested for prostitution, detained or incarcerated and subject to permanent records as offenders in most of the United States.

Do you think that people who buy sex with minors or engage in the act of sex with minors are caught and punished for these crimes?

Actually, despite laws in every state that allow prosecution of these individuals, and despite the hard work of law enforcement and prosecutors in many jurisdictions, a majority of those who have sexually exploited children and adolescents have mostly escaped accountability.

What exactly is commercial sexual exploitation of children (or CSEC)?

Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs when individuals buy, trade or sell sexual acts with a child. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act.

Children who are involved in the commercial sex industry are victims of severe forms of “trafficking in persons,” which is sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion and in which the person has not attained 18 years of age.

In short, CSEC is a form of violence against children.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children can involve street prostitution, escort services, pornography, stripping, private parties, gang-based prostitution, Internet-based exploitation and interfamilial pimping.

Given this information, you may now be asking yourself how a child becomes a victim of CSEC?

Children and adolescents are often targeted. Predators will quite often seek out vulnerable victims, such as runaways or children experiencing problems at home. Predators know that those children have emotional and physical needs that are not being met at home, so they step in and meet those needs.

Predators are not always strangers, they may also be a parent or family member.

Children and adolescents are often tricked. Predators will spend a great deal of time and money to gain their victims’ trust and loyalty. Quite often the predator will “groom” the child, buying them gifts, providing them a place to stay, plying them with affection and “love.”

On occasion these predators will also provide drugs and alcohol to the child in order to get the child addicted. They then use this addiction to further control the child and get them to do whatever is needed to feed their addiction.

Children and adolescents are often traumatized. Predators will use control (threats and violence) to manipulate their victims. They will often use love as a manipulating factor, having the child believe that it is the predator who truly loves and cares for them and that if they were to leave, no one else would want them.

Targeting, tricking and traumatizing children and adolescents makes them feel powerless and trapped. Many of these victims have no one to turn to for help and support, so they become further bonded to their abuser(s).

Sadly, most victims of CSEC also have a prior history of sexual violence victimization. Youths who live in shelters or on the streets may also engage or be coerced into trading sex for food, shelter, other basic needs or drugs.

Finally, you may ask yourself how to spot the signs of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

There are many “red flags” or signs to look for, such as visible signs of abuse: changes in physical appearance; unexplained absences from home, school or residence; multiple cell phones or pagers; involvement with a male who is older and controlling; a history of multiple sexually transmitted infections; unexplained tattoos; interest in pornography or sex trades; loss of interest in age-appropriate activities; drug use and/or addiction and disconnection from family or other caregivers.

Anyone having concerns about a child or adolescent regarding the commercial sexual exploitation of children may contact DHHS Child Protection: 1-800-452-1999; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: www.cybertipline.com; or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888.

Keri Myrick is coordinator and forensic interviewer at the Androscoggin Children’s Advocacy Center.

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Local Events Coming up, via The Daily Bulldog:

**Please Note: Since this article has been published, some changes have been made to the movie/discussion nights. The showing of “The Mask You Live In” on April 17th has been canceled due to scheduling conflicts, and will be show instead of “Misrepresentation” on April 22nd, at 5:30 PM in Thomas Auditorium at UMF**

National Sexual Assault Awareness Month happens across the country, every year, to educate the public and raise awareness around issues of sexual violence. These efforts can include informational presentations, community events, and social media campaigns, to name a few. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the sexual assault awareness movement began in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1990s that the entire month of April was designated to the cause.

For April 2015, the slogan for SAAM in Maine is: “Consent looks different to each of us. All you have to do is ask.” Consent does look different to each of us, because we all communicate and express ourselves in different ways. For some people that expression may be verbal, and for others it may be non-verbal. It is important to know how to ask for consent, and to know how to respond when someone gives or does not give consent. Consent is the essential component in any sexual interaction, and if it is not freely given, it is assault. This is why good communication is a key aspect of healthy sexuality.
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Healthy sexuality is having the knowledge, and a sense of empowerment to express one’s sexuality. This knowledge and empowerment not only contributes positively to one’s self-esteem, but also to their relationships with others.

Both consent and healthy sexuality contribute to sexual violence prevention, and they also support sexual assault survivors. Healthy sexuality supports survivors by acknowledging that their body is their own, that they control their sexuality, and that they have the right to expect their sexual partners to be respectful of their boundaries.

The more we talk about healthy ways to engage with one another, the closer we get to a culture that is free of sexual violence.

• Each year, 13,000 Mainers will experience sexual violence
• Approximately 7.7 percent of Maine high school students report that they have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse
• A recent study found that nearly one in five adult Maine residents reports that they have been the victim of rape or attempted rape during their lifetime (Source: www.mecasa.org)

At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS), we work towards preventing and eliminating sexual violence in Franklin, Androscoggin, and Oxford counties. Please join us at our upcoming events that are free, and open to the public in Franklin County.

On the following Wednesdays in April, we will be having movie and discussion nights at the University of Maine at Farmington: “The Mask You Live In” on April 15, and “Misrepresentation” on April 22. All films will be shown at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Auditorium, which is located in the Roberts Learning Center building.

On Wednesday, April 29 we will be holding the 17th annual March for Violence-Free Communities. Participants will gather outside of the UMF Student Center on South Street at 5:30 p.m. The march will be followed by a Speak Out that will take place in the North Dining Hall, which is located inside of the UMF Student Center. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information about Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) or our services, please visit our website at www.sapars.org or call us at 778-9522. The statewide, toll free, 24-hour sexual assault crisis and support helpline is 1-800-871-7741.

– Submitted by FCDV Task Force Member Agency: Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services

The Franklin County Domestic Violence Task Force is a coalition of agencies and concerned citizens with a mission to lead and empower local people to end domestic violence. For more information about the FCDVTF, please contact Kelley Glidden at (207)795-6744 or email kglidden@safevoices.org.

5K FUNdraiser!

Please join us for our 3rd annual Teal Ribbon Run/Walk 5K in South Paris, ME on Saturday, April 25th!

Registration begins at 9:00 AM. Walkers who are not being timed begin at 9:45 AM. Runners and timed walkers begin at 10 AM.

Location: 1 E Main St., South Paris (Same Building as Ocean Breeze- 44 E Main on GPS)

Cost = $20, kids 12 years and younger = FREE!

You can register and pay online at: http://5k.sapars.org/, or mail registrations and payments to:

Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services
PO Box 6
Auburn, Maine 04212

Please make checks payable to SAPARS

For more information, please call Lauren Dembski at (207) 743-9777 ext. 5

 

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An Effective College Response to Sexual Assault Provides Additional Recourse for Survivors, by Marty McIntyre, via The SunJournal: 

[Article 1 of 4 during April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month]

For the past few years, increased attention has focused on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The statistics are horrifying. The federal government has established new regulations to guide colleges in effectively preventing and responding to sexual assault.

One frequently debated issue is whether colleges should have their own judicial proceedings regarding sexual assault, or whether sexual assaults should only be adjudicated through the criminal justice system.

As an advocate for survivors of sexual violence, I believe that having a campus reporting option available to students is important and serves as a strong addition to the option of a criminal justice report.

Not all adults who are sexually assaulted report the crime to the police. While there are many reasons for not reporting, for college students the decision may be more complex. If they live elsewhere, reporting the crime ties them to a criminal justice process in the college community that may take a year or more to resolve and could require them to return for some proceedings during times that they might not otherwise be on campus. And, during the time they are on campus, the survivor could be in proximity to the person who assaulted them, possibly running into them regularly in the course of their daily campus life.

Colleges obviously cannot do a criminal adjudication on sexual assault or any other behavior that is against the law. That is the purview of our criminal justice system. It is the responsibility of colleges, however, to determine if a student has violated the school’s established code of conduct.

In the case of an alleged sexual assault, the college would determine if the accused student violated the code of conduct which prohibits sexual assault. If the determination is yes, the college can impose sanctions on that student, including expulsion from the college. Because of the seriousness of the charge and the possible penalties, colleges have an obligation to implement systems that are informed, objective and fair to all involved.

Colleges have come a long way in the strategies employed to investigate these assaults. Many colleges used to have a student conduct board made up of various combinations of faculty, staff and students. Colleges typically provided training to those boards to understand and evaluate the different issues they might see during the year, but these boards were often made up of people who had familiarity or relationships with the accuser or the accused (potentially causing bias) and/or who were not fully prepared to evaluate the complex issues they would review.

Many colleges have now changed their approach when addressing charges of sexual assault. Many employ an independent investigator who has special training in assessing these cases and who has no bias toward the case. The investigators present their findings and their recommendations to some sort of hearing board within the college. While accusers and the accused would be interviewed by the investigator, they may not ever have to testify before the hearing board. This process has ensured more effective, specialized assessment, less chance for bias, and less trauma for the people involved.

The benefit for sexual assault victims can be enormous.

First, they can choose to report the crime to the police AND report the assault through the campus system, giving them twice the options of a sexual assault survivor living in the community.

When a sexual assault survivor reports the assault through their college, they can often arrange for accommodations such as being excused from classes for a period of time or measures taken to ensure the safety and protection of the survivor. The campus response process generally happens more quickly than the criminal justice process, giving the survivor a more timely resolution. And, if the accused is found to have violated the student conduct code and is expelled from the college due to the seriousness of the violation, the sexual assault survivor is able to proceed with their college career without fear of that person influencing their experience.

Our local colleges welcome our college advocate onto their campuses to provide support and guidance to sexual assault survivors. The advocate can help sexual assault survivors to understand the options they have for reporting the assault to law enforcement and on their campus, and provide support for them through either or both of those processes.

Sexual assault is a horrendous experience wherever it happens. An effective college response system should not take the place of a criminal justice adjudication, but provide another, additional recourse for survivors.

Marty McIntyre is executive director of Sexual Assault Prevention and Responses Services, serving Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties.