Written, photograph and video by Marissa Greene
For the month of April people around the world are starting conversations about this month’s observance which is sexual assault and violence awareness. One way that society acknowledges this issue is through something called the Clothesline Project.
The Clothesline Project began with the Cape Cod’s Women’s Defense agenda in Hyannis, Massachusettes in 1990. According to the Clothesline Project, these women discovered that during the same time that 58 thousand soldiers were killed during the Vietnam war, 51 thousand women were killed in the U.S alone due to an act of sexual assault or sexual violence. To raise awareness of this issue, The Clothesline Project recognizes victims, survivors, or honors one who experiences this trauma by hanging a clothesline of shirts to represent those affected by sexual assault or sexual violence. Through these powerful visuals, The Clothesline Project hopes to make communities aware of the problem and how to get help.
Sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are all serious health issues that affect all people. According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence, Survey is done by the CDC in 2015 one in every five women has experienced completed or attempted rape during her lifetime. The same survey also states that one in 14 men have experienced forced penetration in his lifetime.
The Clothesline Project states on their website that “A public must be informed about violence in order to act to prevent it. Information on how to recognize and prevent violence, reach out to survivors and make a difference in the community is provided at each display of the project.”
One way our Riverbat community has gotten this conversation started is through the conjunction with the Its on Us campaign. A social movement that shed light on college sexual assault and encouraged college students to pledge to do their part to change society.
“So we had the Its on Us campaign, where students were able to pledge and show their support to other students and other survivors And then we brought the clothesline project with that, so students, again, have that voice to go out and have an outlet to talk about their stories or stories of their loved ones,” said Tamara Yanes, Student Life Coordinator.
Austin Community College and it’s Student Life didn’t stop there. Instead, they sought more ways students can have an expressive outlet and support one another.
“At ACC we really looked at an opportunity in 2017 to bring a college-wide presence of supporting victims and showing a memorial for victims as well as survivors as an opportunity to cast light on the topic and give them the opportunity to express their emotion,” said Austin Wood, ACC Compliance Investigator.
During that year, the ACC community planned to incorporate The Clothesline Project’s mission within the school.
“We launched it in spring 2017 and it was something that had great success and was at every campus,” said Wood.
After the launch, every April, students were able to participate or observe a clothesline full of shirts with expressive messages that students created hung up outside the campus or inside the commons. Giving all students a chance to see and become informed. These events shed light on the resources available to student survivors.
“This is a way for their voice to be heard and shatter the silence and just make it so that students feel comfortable to come out and talk to us and see that we are here to support them. We are here to help them out. We are here to lead them in the right direction when it comes to getting those resources that they need,” said Yanes.
Along with The Clothesline Project, ACC hosts an annual Take Back the Night event every April where the college comes together with community resources as another way to spread awareness and provide a way for students to be heard.
“This may be the first time that they even say something happened to them. And seeing that changes to: “this does happen. I can say something. I do have a voice.” and it’s just to see how empowering it is for those students to finally say something,” said Yanes.
“There is a big stigma on being a victim or survivor of this. It’s almost kind of like a barrier. So to create a conversation around it, that the barrier is kind of broken and we are able to get past that stigma- then there is a lot that people can do to support one another and have a greater sense of unity and community. And that’s really cool, that’s the foundation of the college,” said Wood.
One of the biggest ways students can make an impact to shatter the silence is to be an active bystander. This means to not just witness a situation but also take measures to deescalate it or standing up for someone else.
“If you see something, say something. A lot of times we just want to shy away from different things that are outside in the world, and we just don’t want to be involved in it. At the end of the day, we need to say something and we need to be that powerful voice because there are some people that don’t have that yet, and we need to advocate for them” said Yanes. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG_HcfL-UJU&feature=youtu.be”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]More resources on austincc.edu/mysl
Some resources listed on MySL:
- ACC Counseling Offices — Learn more about services and programs across the district that aim to foster life balance, develop personal and academic growth, and help maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.
- ACC District Police — Officers are available on campuses at all times when campuses are open. ACC offers police escorts if you ever feel you need someone to walk with you on campus.
- Safe Place — Safe Place is ending sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change.
- National Women’s Shelters Directory — Listing of shelters in the Austin area.
- Texas Advocacy Project — Provides free legal services statewide to victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
- Texas Council on Family Violence — The Texas Council on Family Violence has three main focuses: policy, support to service providers and retention.
- City of Austin Victim Services Resources — A detailed list of 24-hour crisis hotlines, victim assistance programs, support groups/counseling services and alcohol drug abuse prevention programs.