Fiona Edmonds (left) addresses students during a sexual assault awareness event at Brunswick High School Wednesday. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Brunswick High School students on Wednesday gathered to raise awareness about sexual violence, supported by administrators who recently made reforms to better educate students and staff about the problem.

Freshman Gabby Pennell and senior Fiona Edmonds organized the event, which drew about 200 students. It was held in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month and followed a protest last year in which some students said they were victims of sexual violence and that the school department hadn’t offered enough support.

“This is a day of educating and reinforming,” Edmonds said. “Many people of all genders, ages and statuses have experienced some form of assault, but not all of them are believed and certainly not all of them are supported.”

Assistant Superintendent Shawn Lambert said the school department has always taken sexual violence seriously and offered training and education for students and staff.

“Despite all of this, we realized last year that we were not doing enough,” Lambert said in an email. “The protest in the spring certainly brought that into focus.”

He said the school department partnered with groups like Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast MaineSafeBAE, a student-led organization that raises awareness about sexual violence; and Maine Boys to Men, which focuses on violence prevention, to offer more training and education for students and staff this school year. Posters with QR codes directing students to resources to deal with sexual violence were also put up at the high school and middle school.


“We’re proud of the work we’ve done and recognize there is more we need to do,” said Lambert, who added the school department hasn’t received any reports of sexual violence this year, reversing a trend of the past few years. “However, this does not necessarily mean there are no incidents happening. This is why it is so important that we encourage students who experience this to report it to us.”

Four high school students told The Times Record during last year’s protest that they were sexually assaulted at the school. Brunswick police said they couldn’t comment on the cases because they involve juveniles. Lambert declined to comment on the cases Thursday.

Sam Saucier, education program coordinator for SASSMM, said her group was invited by the school department to attend Wednesday’s event. She said her organization and the school department have had a “mutually supportive” relationship since last year’s protest.

“I’m delighted they wanted us to be here and let people know what services are available,” Saucier said. “Everybody is impacted by sexual violence at some point in their life. When it happens in a community, there’s a ripple effect. It’s a community-wide issue and it has community-wide solutions.”

Pennell said she is organizing a club next school year to promote healthy relationships and reduce the stigma of sexual violence. She was heartened by the student turnout Wednesday.

“This is a difficult topic to talk about,” she said. “It was good to see everyone out supporting each other.”

“You all are the people who took the time to be here and support this cause that will change stigmas,” Edmonds added. ” … First, we must make changes in ourselves that reflect the actions we want to take.

“We want to support each other and be there for each other.”

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