PORTLAND – Wil Gibson has gone to the Take Back the Night rally for the past three years. Friday was the first time he wore a teal ribbon, indicating he had been sexually abused.

Hundreds of people gathered in Monument Square just before dusk Friday for the 30th annual rally and march in support of survivors of sexual assault.

Before last year’s event, Gibson wrote a poem about being molested by his uncle, but when it came time to recite it during the rally, he said, he “chickened out.”

About a month ago, Gibson’s roommate Heidi Therrien read him a poem she wrote about being abused by her baby-sitter.

They decided then that they would share their experiences at the rally this year.

T-shirts and cloth squares decorated in marker with words like “love,” “support” and “respect” were strung from street lamps and trees in Monument Square. Belly dancers and musicians performed for the crowd.

Among the rally participants were U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, former Attorney General Steve Rowe and Dora Anne Mills, former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pingree spoke about a bill proposed recently in Congress that aims to change the legal term for a survivor of sexual violence from “victim” to “accuser.”

Such violence is”unthinkable in this day and age,” she said.

Lois Reckitt, executive director of Portland-based Family Crisis Services, attended Portland’s first Take Back the Night event, which is sponsored by Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, the city of Portland and the Portland Police Department.

On Friday, Reckitt read a near replica of the speech she gave at the rally 30 years ago. She said she was surprised it was still relevant.

“To a world that condones in thousands of subtle and not-so-subtle ways the beating of one woman every few seconds in this country in her home, the rape and sexual assault of our people on streets and in homes — we say, ‘No more,”” she said.

After the rally, more than 100 people marched from Monument Square through the Old Port and back, holding signs and chanting:

“We have the power. We have the right. The streets are ours. Take back the night.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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