On an exceptionally sunny and warm day, a bright yellow T-shirt decorated with the phrase, “I don’t think you know you raped me,” hung from a wooden structure in the University Forum.
Another shirt read, “I screamed so loud but no one heard a thing.”
These shirts, and over 75 others, made up a display of the Clothesline Project, a national project that spreads awareness of violence against women. Survivors of relationship violence, sexual assault and other violent acts express their thoughts and feelings on T-shirts, which are then hung up in a public space for people to view.
“The display of T-shirts raises awareness, educates the public, supports survivors and helps build a support network for those affected by relationship and sexual violence,” WILL* director Holly Blake said in an email.
For at least 20 years, WILL* has organized a display of the Clothesline Project on campus. Anyone was able to decorate a shirt last week, and those shirts were hung up with many others from years past.
The Clothesline Project was displayed all day Tuesday in the Forum. Members of WILL* sat at a table in between the displays with information packets and brochures while people wandered up to the display and read the messages on the T-shirts.
This year, the Clothesline Project coincided with several other programs on campus aimed at sexual-assault education, including the "It’s On Us" Week of Action and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Clothesline-Project display also served as the background during Take Back the Night, an annual event that seeks to break the silence surrounding sexual assault.
“These events are important – they matter,” Blake said. “There are many ways to get involved on campus and work toward eradicating gender violence. My hope is that people will attend these events, learn more about the pervasiveness of gender violence and then get involved in efforts to work toward eradicating gender violence on our campus.”
Rennie Harrison, WC ’18 and WILL* campus outreach chair, was in charge of the Clothesline Project’s display on campus this year. She said she thought the Clothesline Project’s huge visual display in the center of campus was powerful.
“I think it’s really powerful to have the words of the survivors themselves,” Harrison said.
Hannah Sullivan, WC ’18, made a T-shirt for the display because she was raped her sophomore year.
“I like to get involved with this kind of stuff,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s really important to be vocal and be aware about the rape culture that goes on on college campuses, and on ours as well. … I think it’s really important for us as a society to talk about this stuff and put it out in the open. It kind of gives me a little bit of inner peace.”
Luriel Balaurea, WC ’18 and WILL* member, made a T-shirt because people close to her have experienced domestic, relationship or sexual violence and she wanted to take a stand for both them and herself, she said.
“Hopefully, it will give people a new perspective on victims of violence and how victims may rise up from their experiences in a more passive, sort of coping way,” Balaurea said. “It shows that activism can also mean putting out a T-shirt.”
Contact news writer Ashlee Korlach at firstname.lastname@example.org.