Clothesline Project gives a voice to victims of sexual assault

clothsline_project

Various organizations coordinated a display of t-shirts in the lower quad to illustrate how sexual assault affects survivors and their families.

The Clothesline Project, made possible by the work of various UNC and Chapel Hill feminist organizations, raises awareness of sexual assault and provides resources to survivors.

The artwork is meant to empower survivors, with phrases like, “I do not exist for your consumption,” and “Give me compliments not bruises,” lining the edges of the sidewalk, written on the shirts which were made mostly by survivors.

The Clothesline Project will be on campus today in Davis Library.

Elizabeth Chen, an event planner for Carolina Advocating for Gender Equality, said the Campus Y organization brings the Clothesline Project to Chapel Hill annually, with help from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, Feminist Students United (FSU) and the Senior Class Marshals.

“CAGE annually does this,” she said. “We have a partnership with the OCRCC — we do this every year with them.”

She said the Senior Class Marshals provided equipment and logistical help in setting up the Clothesline Project outside of Wilson Library.

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center, which provides services for victims and their families, set up a booth at the end of the rows. Lahari Pullakhandam, an ambassador for the Crisis Center, said the OCRCC provides multiple outlets for survivors in the county.

“We go out into the community and do outreach events. We have tried to put the mission of the OCRCC out there and just show support to the survivors,” she said. “UNC specifically brought the organization together with the FSU, CAGE and Senior Marshals to hold this event.”

Susannah Burley, the 2017-18 school year co-chairperson for FSU, said one of her primary goals in doing the Clothesline Project is to end the stigma behind sexual assault.

“It can happen to anyone,” she said. “It’s not something you can get over in one night or one day, it takes a lifetime to process.”

She said this event embodies her philosophy by boldly displaying the words of survivors in a public place, almost forcing students and faculty walking by to come to terms with the reality of sexual assualt. Burley said FSU was instrumental in putting on the Clothesline Project.

“We focus on promoting intersectional feminism, which is an open, inclusive community where people can come share their passions,” she said.

While organizers said they cared deeply for the project and the ideals it supports, student response was mixed.

Most students didn’t respond to the abnormality on the quad, but a few took a genuine interest, taking the time to read the T-shirt sentiments or talk to one of the various volunteers on hand.

Junior Gillian Fortier said she spent a few minutes reading the victims’ expressions before heading to her next class.

“It allows people an outlet to tell their stories and have their voices heard,” Fortier said. “You don’t want to think about it­ — you try not to think about it.”

Chen said the event is trying to bring survivors’ stories to light.

“The point of this is to showcase their voices, because a lot of times sexual assault is silenced by society,” she said. “And the point of this is to give them that voice so people can come and see the trauma they’ve been through and see that survivors matter — and that we believe them.”

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