Tag Archives: saam 2015

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


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!


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:


(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.


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.