FARMINGTON – More than 60 people pledged Saturday to treat every living creature with respect and kindness, never use physical, sexual or emotional violence, and do all they could to stop abuse.
They marched through the streets of Farmington under a sunny sky to promote violence-free communities, some yelling out “Two, four, six, eight, no more date rape,” and “Yes means yes, no means no,” among their chants.
Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Cantara and Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services Executive Director Janine Winn led the way behind Franklin County Sheriff Dennis Pike’s cruiser escort.
The march, usually held on a Friday evening, drew more of a crowd this bright Saturday morning, said Winn, who, is retiring this summer after 23 years with SAVES The march was sponsored by SAVES, Healthy Community Coalition, Peace in Our Families and the Abused Women’s Advocacy Project and others.
Winn said a lot of things have changed during her tenure, including more men becoming advocates for violence-free communities and people becoming aware of domestic and sexual violence. People need to speak out and tell people when they see abuse; that it’s not OK to hit the baby or it’s not OK for someone to speak badly to someone else and to let people know they don’t deserve to be treated that way, she said.
Cantara spoke out against the media and their treatment of the alleged sexual assault victim in the Duke University case in North Carolina.
The woman in the case is only known as a stripper who has accused Duke University lacrosse players of sexual assault after she danced during a team party, Winn said, adding that they are unaware that she is a single-mother supporting her family and putting herself through college with the exotic dancing jobs, Winn said.
Cantara also said he’s heard on the media that the victim is believed to have been in sexually and physically abusive relationships before.
Cantara was critical of what he called the media’s “purple prose” when writing and speaking about the case. Facts help, upholding the law helps, offering support helps, but, not this, he said.
It wasn’t too long ago that drinking and driving, drunk driving and being intoxicated were still in the comedy arena.
In 1989 thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and other advocates taking the issue seriously and promoting awareness the state has toughened up its driving laws, Cantara said.
Advocates are doing the same for sexual assault and domestic violence by promoting awareness and working to create violence-free communities, Cantara said.
“It’s a shared responsibility,” he said. “Some obligations fall to citizens. It is our obligation to work together to condemn violence.” Cantara said only until both young boys and girls are taught to believe peace and respect for others are core values will domestic and sexual violence decrease.