Jerry DeWitt: A challenge to men to ‘Pack the Court’

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Every single man knows someone who has been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Most of those victims are daughters, friends, wives and mothers. Some of us also have made friends or have family members who have been the victims of such abuse.

Last year, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services worked with more than 400 people who were affected by rape or sexual assault. Safe Voices served 1,924 victims in Maine.

How many more assaults and rapes went unreported?

The Maine Crime Victimization Report shows that 1-in-5 Mainers (32.1 percent of women and 5.3 percent of men) are victims of rape or attempted rape. Each year, 50 percent of homicides in Maine are related to domestic violence.

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We are, therefore, calling all men to stand up with us against this inexcusable violence and to do whatever we can to stop it.

Why? Simply — if we, as men, continue to do nothing to change societal patterns and behaviors, we are, by default, complicit. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” — Martin Luther King Jr.

As police officers, we have decided that it is time for men in our communities to publicly demonstrate against sexual assault and domestic violence. Those who have been traumatized, both men and women, need us all to raise our voices and take action toward stopping the predatory and violent behaviors of our fellow men.

We need to also accept responsibility for our own negligence and change our own behaviors, use our voices to challenge anyone who looks the other way, and advocate for those who are more vulnerable.

LA Women Rising has recently been bringing greater public attention to this cause. It is not good enough for us, as men, to stand silently while women alone raise the issue. Collectively and individually, we will shoulder some of the responsibility.

So, “man up,” everyone and join us to “Pack the Court” in Kennedy Park on Oct. 11. Invite friends to come along. By adding our voices and actions to the cause, we will participate in making our community a safer place for all our citizens.

Jerry DeWitt is a co-chairman of the “Pack the Court” project. Larry Gilbert Sr., the other co-chairman, plus Auburn Police Chief Phil Crowell and Lewiston Police Chief Mike Bussiere contributed to this column.

Inaugural ‘Pack the Court’ event on Saturday

Men are invited to Kennedy Park from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 11, to “Pack the Court” to raise awareness of the violence of sexual and domestic assault. The project is intended to pack the basketball court rather than judicial courts.

Rain date is Saturday, Oct. 18.

Speakers will include Bill Lowenstein, board chairman of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, and Active-retired Justice Robert Clifford. Information about local resources and support will be available.

All those who attend will be invited to take a pledge of personal action to stop the violence, a pledge that calls on men to “stand with courage, lead with conviction, and speak out to promote non-violence as the norm.”

The event has been organized by the LA Women Rising collaborative, made up of Safe Voices, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services, The Center for Wisdom’s Women and the YWCA.

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