On April 28, Western Illinois Regional Council-Community Action Agency (WIRC-CAA) Victim Services workers hung up approximately 40 t-shirts in Ferris Lounge to advocate against violence against women. The shirts were decorated by assault survivors as part of their healing process or by loved ones for those murdered.
The program is part of the agency’s advocacy efforts during April, which is sexual assault awareness month. The agency goes to all five colleges in the six counties it serves. They try to hold the event outside but move inside for bad weather as they did on Friday.
“We haven’t had that many [visitors]. We typically set up outside for these but when weather is bad we have to go inside to our rain location and so it doesn’t end up being as powerful a display as when we set up outside and can cover a lot of ground and use trees as well,” sexual assault medical/legal advocate Brittany Schisler said.
The group has an additional 500 shirts in storage beyond the four full totes they brought to Knox. They only had room for around 40 shirts in Ferris Lounge which represented only one tote.
The shirts are assigned colors according to the type of violence the person survives. White shirts are made for women who die from violence. Survivors moved by the display can ask the organizers and decorate a shirt in a private room at the event.
“Some come here and see them and react and say ‘I wanna do it,’” Schisler said.
The project displays are an important part of the groups outreach, especially with their timing in April.
“April is our craziest, busiest month every year but it is also one of the best,” sexual assault medical/legal advocate Jill Mann said.
The group also operates a 24/7 free and confidential hotline as well as providing legal and medical advocacy, free counseling services and help for survivors who press criminal charges. Along with Schisler and Mann, intern and Western Illinois University student Cristina White also helped with the Knox display.
New shirts are added every year and those displayed at the WIRC-CAA events all come from local survivors. The Clothesline Project started in 1990 in Cape Cod, Mass. and WIRC-CAA started participating in 1996.
“For some people, at least, it’s a good part of the healing process,” Schisler said.