BANGOR, Maine — Among the estimated 60 people who took part in Friday afternoon’s Sexual Assault Awareness Walk and Rally in downtown Bangor was a petite, gray-haired woman wearing a chic straw hat.
Perhaps lured by balloons or the music, the woman stopped by an information table set up in Pickering Square as part of Rape Response Services’ observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The woman paused to peruse several of the informational pamphlets and other educational materials set out by the nonprofit organization, which is a subsidiary of Penquis and serves residents of Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.
“I’m so glad you’re doing this,” the woman said softly, asking if she could have a private word with the woman from Rape Response Services who was staffing the table. Afterward, she took a seat on one of the park benches in the square with tears streaming down her face.
“It is a situation that [affects people] from cradle to grave, men and women,” said Alex Turallo, who handles client services for Rape Response Services.
“What I can tell you is that one in five Mainers will experience some kind of sexual assault in their lifetime,” Turallo said, adding that one out of six men and and one out of four women are or will become victims.
In an effort to raise awareness about sexual violence prevention and services available locally, Rape Response Services supporters walked from the Penquis office on Harlow Street to Pickering Square, where speakers discussed what they and the organizations they represent are doing to bring an end to sexual violence and how others can help.
The lineup included Carey Nason of the University of Maine’s Safe Campus Project; Norm Pacholski of the Maine Air National Guard, who discussed the National Guard’s Bystander campaign; and Angela Fileccia, a Rape Response Services board member.
In addition, Vanessa Vhay, a member of the Maine National Guard, debuted her song “Here I Am,” which addresses how sexual violence affects its victims.
Rape Response Services outreach coordinator Tina Voigt, who organized the event, said there are many ways people in the community can help prevent such violence.
“Community members can learn about ways they can help prevent sexual violence with just 30 seconds of their time, such as pledging to refuse to support companies that glamorize violence.” she said. “We believe we all have the power to make positive change in our community and we would like to provide people with the tools to make those changes.”
For information, visit Rape Response Services’ Facebook page. For help with problems involving sexual abuse or stalking, call the organization’s 24-hour hot line at 800-310-0000.