March 11, 2010

Hundreds protest sex abuse

BOB KEYES

— By

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Doug Jones/staff photographer: Friday, April 24, 2008: Kat Larson lines the pathway to the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church for the 28th annual, Take Back the Night, rally and march.

click image to enlarge

Doug Jones/staff photographer: Friday, April 24, 2008: The 28th annual, Take Back the Night, rally and march, started at the First Parish Unitarian Church Universalist Church in Portland at 6 with the march at 7:15PM.

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — They marched with heads held high, carrying signs that read ''Break the Cycle'' and ''Say No to Violence.'' Over and over, they chanted: ''No more violence, no more rape! No more silence, no more hate!''

The 28th annual Take Back the Night rally owned the streets of Portland on Friday night, drawing several hundred men and women. They spoke out against all forms of sexual abuse and violence, offering powerful personal testimony and vowing never to stand idly by again.

The event began with a daylong exhibition in Monument Square and concluded with a rally at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church and march through the Old Port.

The march at nightfall felt especially energized. On the first really warm spring evening of the season, the streets were teeming with people, and in the middle of it all came a cordon of people chanting in unison and calling attention to their cause.

''Stand up. Step in. Speak out,'' was the theme for this year's rally, said Cyndi Amato, executive director of Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.

In remarks at the church, Amato told the gathering that it was important to make a public gesture, such as with the march, to spread the message that violence of any kind will not be tolerated.

''We can come forward as survivors and supporters of survivors to show we are all in this together,'' Amato said. ''Your voice is loud and clear without saying anything.''

Take Back the Night began in Germany in 1973, and has become an international event. It happens every April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

In Portland, the rally began as a women-only event, but now is widely attended by men as well.

Layne Gregory, executive director of Boys To Men, an organization that mentors young men, delivered the keynote address at the rally. She talked about the bystander effect, a psychological phenomenon that suggests individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present.

She used the oft-cited example of Kitty Genovese, a New York woman who was attacked and killed outside of her Queens apartment in 1964. Media reports indicated that 38 people witnessed the attack, but did little to help.

Gregory challenged the crowd to stand up for victims of sexual assault and to speak out to lessen the likelihood of it happening again.

''If you are standing up, speaking out and stepping in against violence, you are responding to the incremental behavior that happens before (a violent) situation actually happens,'' she said.

Friday's rally included a performance by Maine singer and songwriter Lynn Deeves. Maine's sexual assault crisis and support centers and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault received the annual Take Back the Night Award on Friday.

Individual recipients were: Gretchen Ziemer, Rape Response Services; Alyssa Clark, Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine; Judy Rawlings, Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services; Bridget McAlonan and Jamie Ricker, Sexual Assault Crisis Center; Debbie Dembski, Rape Education and Crisis Hotline; Cyndi Amato, Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine; Lorraine Chamberlain, AMHC Sexual Assault Services; Lois Gordon, Downeast Sexual Assault Services; Elizabeth Ward Saxl, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault; and Donna Strickler, Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

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