Clothesline Project, Now With More Support

This is the third consecutive year that the Clothesline Project has run on campus. This year, new components have been added to make it a more positive experience, not only for survivors, but for everyone on campus.

First, what is the project itself? Survivors of sexual misconduct (including assault, child abuse, domestic violence, violence because of perceived queer or trans identity, and murder) are given the chance to make a shirt expressing their thoughts and feelings about the experience. Friends and family of survivors are also welcome to make shirts, and many do. Supplies for shirt-making are available in Worth Health Center.

The shirts will be hung in Upper Tarble on Monday, September 24th, and then in front of Parrish from Tuesday through Thursday.

For the last two years, the project has been launched close to the end of spring semester. According to organizer and SMART team member Nicole Belanger ’08, it was moved this year because “we got a lot of feedback from people on campus and also from Psych Services saying that people were having a hard time getting back in the academic swing of things for exams.”

In order to keep emotional stress and academic stress as separate as possible (and also to make sure that the Clothesline wouldn’t get rained on), the project was moved to the fourth week of the fall semester.

The primary addition this year is the White Ribbon Project. Belanger explained, “Last year, we got feedback that people who didn’t make a shirt wanted to have a way to contribute… We’re inviting everyone in the community to wear white ribbons the week the project is up to show support for the survivors in their lives and on campus.”

Students can pick up white ribbons in the Intercultural Center on Thursday, September 20th and Friday the 21st from 11-1. Ribbons are available for free, but the organizers will also be accepting donations. All proceeds will go to Women Against Rape in Media, an organization that provides services including victim counseling, court accompaniments, and a crisis hotline.

The Handprint Pledge (for which men are invited to place their handprint on a sheet containing a pledge to stand against sexual violence) is reappearing for the second time this year. Reid Wilkening ’10 is a SMART team member who has taken the lead in organizing the Handprint Pledge. He said of his involvement, “I’ve supported a number of friends in the past, and it’s an issue that’s become important to me.”

Why only men? Wilkening said, “we had a long discussion about that… we’re interested in masculinity as a construct and the stereotypes associated with men.” The Handprint Project is not meant to suggest that women do not perpetrate sexual assault, but it does suggest that our concept of masculinity contributes to rape. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimated that 90% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, against both men and women.”

Wilkening explained that through the pledge, “we want to show that even if you’re not a perpetrator, you do have a role in this issue… it’s important for men to see that they can take an active stance on this issue, and that it’s important for you not to remain silent… as a man you do have a stake.”

The pledge will be available to sign in Parrish on Thursday, September 20th from 11:30-1 and from 5-7, on Friday the 21st in Parrish from 11:30 to 2. Next week it will be available from 7-9 on Monday in Upper Tarble and from 11:30-4:30 on Tuesday in Parrish. The pledge will be displayed in Shane Lounge from Tuesday the 25th to Sunday the 30th.

The committee is also organizing a ring discussion for the night of Wednesday the 26th. Belanger explained that this year “we’ll split into gendered groups at the beginning and then come together at the end.” During last year’s discussion, she says, “it became apparent… that there were two different conversations going on in the room. For whatever reason, women have generally thought more about these issues, so they can be very different conversations.”

The committee still wants the genders to learn from each other, and Belanger hopes that “when we reconvene in the big group we’ll have a more productive conversation than we did last year.”

The project has its first public event on Monday night at 7:30 PM, an open mike which Belanger describes as “an intense, difficult but powerful night… I think it’s a really good thing for people to go to because it gives you a sense of the range and impact of sexual violence.” She also stressed, “I encourage people to go with friends and support each other, because it can be a difficult time.”

Also available for support will be the SMART Team, holding office hours on weekdays Friday the 21st through Thursday the 27th from 1-3 PM.

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