Tag Archives: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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!)

Sexual assault & child abuse awareness: Franklin County, ME

Local agencies focus on April awareness, via Daily Bulldog:


April is a significant month nationally, and members of the Franklin County Domestic Violence Task Force are collaborating to help increase local awareness of two critical issues affecting our friends and neighbors: Child abuse and sexual assault.

Child Abuse: In Franklin County, child abuse and neglect happens more frequently than one might think. In 2013, there were 468 reports made to child protective services. Of those reports, 229 were referred on for further interventions. These children are victims of abuse, neglect and emotional maltreatment at the hands of those who are tasked with protecting and nurturing them. While not all children who experience these issues are removed from their caretakers, many are placed with family members, foster care providers or strangers. They are essentially uprooted and displaced, often causing them severe anxiety and sadness. These feelings, while normal, can also be detrimental to the emotional health of children. We know that such incidents can also cause lasting damage to their physical health and well-being. When this happens, these incidences are known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

These experiences can include: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, incarceration, substance abuse, untreated mental health issues, and domestic violence. Such experiences early in life have been known to result in poor health outcomes as these children enter adulthood. While this is evident, building resiliency in our children can and will allow them to overcome such dangers. Protective factors, such as parent resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, social and emotional competency in children, social connections, and concrete support in times of need can help to provide the tools children require for successful development.

The Franklin County Children’s Task Force will host the following events in April to bring awareness to preventing child abuse:

• A Pinwheel for Prevention is a nationwide public awareness campaign. The pinwheel is an uplifting symbol of childhood, and helps the public recognize that the future is at risk when children don’t have equal opportunity for growth and development. The pinwheel is a reflection of hope, health, and healing. The Pinwheels for Prevention campaign will be ongoing throughout the month of April.

• You can join FCCTF and friends at the Homestead Bakery between 7:30-9 am for a family Pancake Breakfast on April 24. All you can eat pancakes will be provided, with fruit, juice and coffee. This event is sponsored by the Farmington Rotary.

• FCCTF will also host its annual Run to Prevent Child Abuse. This is a 5K/10K and Kids Fun Run being held on May 10. The Kids Fun Run is free; registration starts at 7:30 a.m. for all races. The starting place is at FCCTF on Church Street. The run is being shadowed by troops stationed in Kuwait who wanted to sponsor a non-profit agency in Maine.

For any questions about these events, please call FCCTF at 778-6960 or view the website at www.fcctf.org.

Sexual Assault: Last year alone, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) provided support services to more than 440 survivors in Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties. Other statistics to know:

• One in five Mainers report being the victim of attempted or completed rape

• 67 percent of the sexual assault victims reported to law enforcement are under the age of 18

• Nationally – only 50 percent of sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement.

SAPARS works to prevent and eliminate sexual violence and promote healing and empowerment for people of all genders and ages who are affected by rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, stalking and sexual harassment.

Ending violence is the work of our whole community. With the Franklin County Domestic Violence Task Force we are able to strengthen our connections with local agencies as we work to provide support for survivors of violence in our community.

On Wednesday, April 30, SAPARS will host its 16th Annual March for Violence-Free Communities. Participants will gather at the gazebo at Meetinghouse Park on Main Street in Farmington (across from the Superior Courthouse) at 5:30 p.m. The march will lead to a Speak Out at the Old South Church on Main Street in Farmington. Bill Lowenstein, SAPARS’ president of the board of directors, will be the keynote speaker. Community members will be invited to Speak Out and share their thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding all forms of violence. Join SAPARS and others in honoring survivors of sexual abuse and help us put a stop to violence in our community.

For additional information and resources, please visit sapars.org or call the statewide, toll free 24-hour Helpline number at 1-800-871-7741 (voice) or 1-888-458-5599 (TTY).

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 Stacie Bourassa at (207)778-6297 or email sbourassa@safevoices.org.

Human Trafficking in Maine

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention and education efforts.

The first article is about Human Trafficking, which was written by Destie Hohman Sprague, Program Director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault:

Human trafficking is getting a lot of press in Maine right now — much of it discussing whether enough is being done.

But for those of us who have been working closely on this issue for the past few years, we know that the landscape today is radically different than it was just four years ago. Trafficking is an extremely complex issue, and developing meaningful, Maine-based solutions takes hard work and patience.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate a few of the successes that Maine has achieved using one simple formula: teamwork.

In the past four years, thanks to local, state and national partners, more than a thousand law enforcement officers and direct service providers have had training based on nationally-recognized best practices for response. In addition to this, public awareness events such as the Not Here conference have connected students and citizens with the issue.

Local efforts, such as the Androscoggin County Human Trafficking Task Force, the Greater Portland Coalition Against Sex Trafficking and Exploitation, and the Penobscot-Piscataquis Sex Trafficking Response Team are bringing multidisciplinary teams to the table, and developing a home-grown human trafficking response. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, the sexual assault services provider in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, is a key participant in the local task force.

Maine is now the recipient of its first line of federal funding dedicated to trafficking victims; a two-year grant of $400,000 from the federal Office of Victims of Crime will support collaborative services and protocol development in southern Maine.

A new central resource about sex trafficking exists for the state, with information about state and federal law, model policies and protocols, and links to best practices. The website is www.mainesten.org, and we have the support of the Maine Women’s Fund and many other partners to thank.

As of last fall, the crime of aggravated sex trafficking is on the books, increasing penalties for offenders, expanding the definition of a human trafficking offense, and opening up civil penalties and restitution for survivors.

That bill was the result of careful work for many months with the Office of the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Work Group, the Criminal Law Advisory Commission, and dedicated prosecutors and providers across the state. It was supported through the session with the leadership of the House and Senate chairs of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

Earlier this week, the Legislature passed Rep. Amy Volk’s, R-Scarborough, proposal, in LD 1730, that will offer an affirmative defense for victims of trafficking, as well as increased access to victims’ compensation (and enhanced fines for offenders).

Still, there is so much work to be done.

While awareness of the issue is growing, the needs are growing as well.

Victims of trafficking and commercial sex exploitation experience an almost total loss of financial, educational, physical and emotional autonomy. Individuals engaged in trafficking are treated as a commodity or property, and are often reliant on a pimp, an employer, or an intimate partner to meet their basic needs. They may have limited or no access to the money that they earn; as a result, their ability to forge an independent, safe and self-reliant life is severely undermined.

Maine currently has limited specialized resources to meet these needs.

For that reason, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MECASA), with help from many partners, is launching the Maine Sex Trafficking Victims Support Fund this month. The fund aims to be a flexible, accessible and timely source of funds to support the immediate needs of victims of trafficking as they seek to increase their safety and start a new life.

Even with the progress we have made in recent years, there are many more steps Maine must take before we have the infrastructure to address the needs effectively.

Human trafficking is a complex issue, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There is only a multi-disciplinary approach. True progress happens when the process makes room for all of the players at the table to hash out the best solution for Maine: for the nuances of the Maine criminal code, for the realities faced by law enforcement and prosecutors, and for the true needs of victims of this crime.

We at MECASA are excited to be on that team, and we are energized to know that so many people and organizations, and in all parts of the state, have already contributed to this important work, and will continue to partner with us into the future.

Destie Hohman Sprague is the program director at the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She may be reached at: destie@mecasa.org.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a time to recognize where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going in the work to prevent rape, childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment and all forms of sexual violence. It is also a time to recognize the harm done by sexual violence – not only to individuals, but to our communities and indeed, our entire culture. Just as importantly, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a time to celebrate healing and the resilience of victim-survivors.

We are busy planning and preparing for educational presentations, activities, and events. Here is a link to our happenings throughout Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties.

PS: Don’t forget to wear lots of teal this month!

Responsibility of the community to keep children safe

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention & education efforts.

Here is the 4th and final article from one of our our Education Coordinators!

I walk into a first-grade classroom with an armload of 30 makeshift hula hoops shaped like a raindrop rather than a circle. They are blue and have a mass of silver duct tape at the point of the raindrop shape.

The students in the class are smiling and quietly say to each other and to me “Space Ships!”

These “space ships” are one of the tools that we have been using since 2007 to teach the self-empowerment and personal space to children in elementary school. In some schools, by the spring of first grade, a child will have “played” with these space ships three times.

Teaching children about personal body safety and sexual abuse prevention is a careful endeavor. At Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, we approach the issue by teaching different concepts that build on one another and create a firm foundation before we even start talking specifically about sexual harassment or sexual assault.

The first concept we teach is that of personal body space.

By using the “spaceships,” we take a theoretical concept and make it visual, so all the children can “see” it and understand it.

They can see that we move through our day and our need for personal body space might change depending on circumstance, or on which person we are interacting with.

The space ships allow the children to experience the concept of their own personal body space and respect the right of each other to maintain that space. This activity also helps children to understand and learn about healthy boundaries and consent — key concepts in sexual assault prevention.

By third grade, we focus our presentations on team work and interdependence. Using games designed to encourage the students to maintain their own individual personal space while being part of a group, we explore concepts of leadership, group dynamics and how to problem-solve in a fair and positive way so that all members of a team feel included and are safe.

We also talk about their responsibility to one another, which lays the groundwork for conversations about how to be a proactive bystander and help other students when it looks like they are being hurt.

Our presentations in fourth grade explicitly focus on gossip, rumors and bystander behaviors.

Again, using games to explore these concepts, the students are able to meet and address these potentially scary concepts in a developmentally appropriate and fun fashion.

We give the students a tube of toothpaste and ask them to squeeze it out onto a paper plate. We can then talk about what a mess it made. Then we ask them to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Of course they cannot get more than a dab back in the tube.

We can then begin the discussion about how words can make a mess and that, once said, they cannot be taken back. This helps us to talk with the students about bullying and what a mess it can create and how it cannot be undone.That lays a solid foundation for later presentations about appropriate Internet/social media use.

In fifth and sixth grades, we actively engage the students in conversations about Internet safety and harassment issues.

Because they have had all of the concept and skill-building presentations in prior years, they have the ability to apply those lessons to these very important topics and understand them in a more fundamental way.

Throughout these presentations, we talk with the students about the importance of getting help from a grownup when they or someone else is being hurt or in danger of being hurt. We help them to identify who those grownups might be, and what they should expect in the way of help from those adults.

All of our presentations can be presented as stand-alone material, but we find that they work best all together. Our presentations build upon each other, creating a framework of understanding, built year after year.

We believe it is the responsibility of the community to help keep our children safe from harm.

While it is the adults who should be responsible for sexual abuse prevention, our programs provide our children with the concepts and skills necessary to help keep themselves safe. And, they teach children lifelong skills that will help them each to understand and seek out safe, healthy relationships.

Bridget McAlonan is the SACC Education Coordinator for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

Every year, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault holds their annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Tea at the Blaine House (the Governor’s mansion), for Maine’s SAAM kickoff.  Today, two of our staff members received awards! Susan from SACC (Androscoggin County), and Jeb from SAVES (Franklin County) were both given “Advancing The Mission” awards. Congratulations!!!