FARMINGTON — They march and make noise. They speak out, but mostly they honor survivors of sexual abuse and support an end to violence in the community.

For the 16th year, the community is welcome to join in the Franklin County’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services’ annual March for Violence-Free Communities on Wednesday.

The march begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at Meetinghouse Park on Main Street, across from the superior courthouse. Participants can bring signs to carry and brochures with information about violence or local resources to hand out. They can also have fun, said Nick Citriglia, coordinator for SAPARS in Franklin County.

The march will travel through downtown streets to Old South Congregational Church, where William Lowenstein, president of SAPARS board of directors, will speak. He has been part of the movement for a long time, Citriglia said.

The crime of sexual assault is one that often goes unreported — but in 2013, SAPARS worked with approximately 400 survivors across the tri-county area they cover, including Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, he said. 

SAPARS, formerly known as Sexual Assault Victims Emergency Services in Franklin County, helps people recover from the trauma of sexual violence.

“It affects many people,” he added.

This year, Citriglia has asked Lowenstein and representatives from the District Attorney’s office, police and Safe Voices to discuss why this work is important to them.

Participants and survivors will have a chance “to speak out and share their thoughts and feelings on the issues surrounding all forms of violence,” he said.

During April’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a variety of activities have been held, including several on the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington, he said.

Some students teamed up with a SAPARS educator to provide awareness events, including a consent week and pledge. They discussed what consent is and how to get consent, he said. Consensual sex is “yes, I want to do this” but “no” or silence means no, he said.

SAPARS also provides school and community programs to raise awareness, educate and prevent sexual violence.

One upcoming program is a collaboration between SAPARS, Safe Voices and the Franklin County Children’s Task Force, featuring student artwork called “Peace by Piece.”

It’s a countywide art project involving students from preschool through high school. They have decorated tongue depressors to represent what peace means to them, he said.

Pieced together, the final artwork will be unveiled on Friday, May 9, at Upcountry Artists in downtown Farmington. Viewing and an opportunity to add to the interactive art work takes place from 3 to 7 p.m., he said.

The project was supported by the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area’s Buttons for Babes and with support from the Upcountry Artists who donated the use of the gallery, he said.

For more information, visit the website at www.sapars.org.

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