The Ferris Lounge was filled with brightly colored shirts meant to promote serious progressive dialogue. Each individual shirt put on display was meant to represent a person affected by sexual or domestic violence. The shirts were brought in by a national program titled The Clothesline Project on Friday, April 20.
“I went to see the clothing and the atmosphere was very tense, as I read the pieces that went with the clothes. I understood that people’s trust was betrayed,” freshman Bamise Afolabi said. “Some of them were like ‘Dad, I trusted you when you came into my room at night. . .’ and that was very emotional.”
Afolabi stated that although he didn’t have any personal experience with sexual assault, he knew women who have been assaulted and don’t speak about their trauma because of the stigma of sexual violence. The Clothesline Project aims to reduce those stigmas around the world and locally.
Sexual Assault Medical Legal Advocate Jill Mann shared that the Clothesline Project is especially impactful in rural or less-populated areas where many civilians share a common misconception that sexual assault doesn’t occur in their communities.
“There’s no clothesline project kit you buy. . . all of these t-shirts are made by people we’ve worked with,” Mann said. “The project provides the support as they’re making the shirts and it provides the awareness as they’re displaying the shirts. . . so the front end is the support and the back end of the project is the awareness.”
Mann reported that over 500 shirts in the Clothesline collection were donated by members of surrounding counties including Knox, Hancock, Henderson, McDonough and Warren.
Sexual Assault Response Team Advocate Kathryn Nettleton explained that the t-shirts allowed victims to share their story without needing to put themselves out in the public. That way survivors could still receive support without sharing their identity.
“[The project] is a really good way [for survivors] to get their story out there without having to stand up in front of a bunch of different people,” Nettleton said. “Every survivor is going to have a different experience, they’re not all going to be a cookie cutter, act the same way. So not only are these t-shirts therapeutic to the survivors who make them, but they show different experiences.”
The project was created not only to inform viewers of the violence within their communities, but to also support survivors of abuse during their personal healing process. Displayed alongside the hanging t-shirts were posters and pamphlets containing information on supportive services.
“I was glad I went to see the shirts because now I know about how sexual assault effects women, men, and LGBT people,” Afolabi said. “In the future if I know someone [affected] I can listen and make myself better. If I hear men saying something wrong I can explain, or step in. There are no excuses for sexual assault.”
Mann mentioned she and her colleagues have left 24-hour crisis line telephone numbers and information pamphlets in restaurants, bars and gas stations, and have set up display tables at Hy-Vee. Victim Services’ advertisements have even been featured on billboards and buses.
“We go everywhere, we talk to everyone and we don’t leave them alone until they know we exist,” Mann said.
Take Back the Night:
It was no accident that Take Back the Night was held on the same day as The Clothesline Project installation. According to sophomore Carolyn Ginder, members of the Knox community were meant to stop by the morning installation and learn about the effects of sexual violence. By nightfall, the campus was invited to participate in the Take Back the Night march to affirm their commitment towards stopping sexual assault.
“[The clotheslines project] was for an educational experience and to raise awareness,” Ginder said. “We were hoping people would come look at it and then come back later for Take Back the Night.”
Over 100 people attended the event on. According to Ginder this was an improvement from last year’s turn out. She attributed the success of the event to the fact that many organizations such as Students Against Sexual Violence and Knox sport teams came together to join the march. Ginder cited Director of Counseling Services Janell McGruder as a huge help. Next year she hopes to collaborate with more cultural clubs and underrepresented groups.
“Janell McGruder is the professor of my leadership class and she told our class about the march … I was glad I went, I will never forget taking that walk,” Afolabi said.
Ginder stated she was relieved when she saw the large group of students waiting to start marching with signs and chants ready to go. The marchers took a swift walk from Seymour Union to the Quads and back.
“I think it was really great, I wanted to see take back the night succeed and to have the turnout we did…. It meant a lot to me and I think it meant a lot to other survivors on campus,” Ginder said.
For sophomore and basketball player Jarrelyn McCall, the event was something that lifted her up and made her proud of the Knox community. McCall carried a sign that stated “basketball supports survivors.”
“Just knowing that students who have been sexually assaulted have the support of the university that they attend is such a good feeling,” McCall said. “I commend Knox and people in the community for supporting and providing resources for such a big issue.”
Victim Services’ 24-Hour Crisis Line: 309-837-5555