St. Thomas University students and community members hung up shirts with painted messages on them around lower campus on Nov. 15 and 16 in an effort to bring awareness to domestic and sexual violence.
It’s an initiative called The Clothesline Project brought to campus by STUSU’s sexual assault prevention committee.
Amy Baldwin, a co-chair of the committee, said she is not only excited about the awareness the initiative brings to campus, but also the impact it has on those affected by sexual harassment and abuse.
“It gives survivors and people a way to have their message out there,” Baldwin said.
A table with shirts and paint was set up in James Dunn Hall with members of the committee stationed around it. Students could pick a shirt and embellish it with various symbolic colours.
The colour white is a tribute to people who have died as a result of violence. Yellow is a tribute to survivors of physical assault and/or domestic violence. The colours red, pink and orange pay homage to survivors of rape or sexual assault. Remaining colours represent various violent acts such as childhood sexual abuse, attacks suffered due to perceived sexual orientation and verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse.
After students were finished writing a statement on the shirt, they hung it up on one of two clotheslines on lower campus along the walkway.
As the shirts started to multiply, students like Alaina Mejia began to notice their powerful messages.
“I think it brings light to an issue on campus in an approachable way,” Mejia said.
This is STU’s first time installing The Clothesline Project. The initiative got its start in a town in the United States in 1990.
It was around this time that statistics discovered the number of unnecessary deaths in the Vietnam War, a controversy still fresh in citizens’ minds, was almost equal in number to women killed by their partners during those same years.
A group of women in Massachusetts, appalled by these numbers, formed their own initiative to generate the same amount of scandal as the war deaths.
Nearly 30 years later, STU brought The Clothesline Project to campus. The sexual assault prevention committee, including member Tom Simmons, hopes it will prompt discussion around sexual assault and harassment on campus.
“Projects and initiatives like these, as they grow, we’re going to see an impact,” Simmons said.
This was a goal the co-chairs of the sexual assault prevention committee had in mind when they first thought of bringing the initiative to campus.
Formed this year, the committee consists of approximately 30 members who are trying to raise awareness about sexual assault by engaging the student population. Earlier this year, they participated in Fredericton’s Take Back the Night, a march protesting sexual and domestic violence.
“STU is a great place to be, but us assuming that, as educated, liberal arts students, nobody here gets sexually assaulted is a super harmful idea,” said Baldwin.
She added sexual assault and harassment are just as prevalent at STU as they are elsewhere.
Andrea Stuart, a member of the sexual assault prevention committee agreed STU is far from being a safe haven from sexual harassment and assault.
Stuart joined the committee after she and a friend witnessed an incident and started talking about the harmful culture on campus. She said she wanted to make a change and believes The Clothesline Project is a step in the right direction.
“In order to end any stigmas, you have to address them.”
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