Community members came together to share their stories about sexual violence and assault as well as support for survivors during the Clothesline Project event in the Goshen Lounge on Tuesday.
The event is held in the fall and spring semesters. During the fall, it is held in October, because October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, according to Samantha Dickens, director of the Prevention, Education and Advocacy Center.
During each event, paint, markers and other art supplies are available for attendees to write a message with their experience or support on a plain white T-shirt. The shirts are then hung up on clotheslines until the event ends.
“The faculty, staff and students can come, they can make a T-shirt where they can share their stories as survivors. If they’re not a survivor, they can just share messages of support and encouragement or messages about oppression and privilege and how that plays into sexual and domestic violence,” Dickens said. “We just ask that they be thoughtful about what they put up there so it’s not harmful to the people who are viewing it.”
Dickens said the event began as a national campaign for domestic violence and sexual assault awareness.
There were 39 T-shirts on the clotheslines by the end of the event, Dickens said.
“Clothesline is a really great opportunity for students to give a few minutes of their time — because we know a few minutes is often all they have — to express their support,” Dickens said. “It means a lot to people who are survivors or know survivors to see these kinds of messages because a lot of what they see or hear is really negative and not supportive.”
Kelsie Williams, a sophomore criminal justice major from St. Louis, made a T-shirt that said “We Believe You” on it. Williams said she didn’t know about the event beforehand but decided to make a shirt after seeing the event in the Goshen Lounge.
“A lot of times when it comes to sexual assault, [people] always want to victim blame,” Williams said. “I feel like that’s not right. You should listen to his or her story, because they’re not lying most of the time; they’re telling the truth. I feel like their stories should be heard and not suppressed.”
Shae Olson, a junior social work major from Oreana, Illinois, said she visited the event to share a message of support for her sister.
“My sister was a victim of sexual assault, so I wanted to remember her,” Olson said.
Emma Bowen, a senior social work major and PEACe intern from Pinckneyville, Illinois, said she was happy with the turnout this year.
“I’ve been to the clothesline project in the fall and spring for the past few years, and this is more people than I’ve seen before,” Bowen said. “I’ve definitely never seen the clotheslines all the way filled up. It was pretty awesome.”
Dickens said that all the T-Shirts are only displayed during the event, but some of them will be out at other events held by PEACe throughout the year.
Dickens also said PEACe will also be holding an interactive theatre event called “Aftermath” as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “Aftermath” will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 and Oct. 30.