Throughout the month of April, students may have noticed a line of t-shirts hanging up inside of Talley Student Union, as well as several other places across campus. These are in no way ordinary shirts. In fact, the apparel on display is part of a larger event better known as The Clothesline Project.
The Clothesline Project is a national initiative that highlights the problem of sexual violence throughout our communities. Started in 1990 in Hyannis, Massachusetts, this and a variety of other events across campus this April, falls in accordance with NC State’s recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“The Clothesline Project, as a whole, is a national event,” said Sara Forcella, NC State’s Rape Prevention Education Coordinator. “It started as a movement in a local community, and it just caught on. The national movement focuses on violence against women, though our Clothesline Project here at NC State is not just about raising awareness of violence against women, but also towards all members of the Wolfpack, because we know that intimate partner violence, like stalking, relationship violence and sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender identity.”
The shirts on display this year were all created by members of the NC State community, and each tells of the experiences of a different individual.
“It’s a form of expressive art,” said Janine Kossen, Associate Director of NC State’s Women’s Center. “It gives a way for survivors to have an outlet where they can write whatever they want in whatever way they feel is the best expression of them. I think the visual display of having t-shirts is just a recognition of how pervasive this is, and how different every individual’s experience is.”
The shirts are on display in both Talley as well as four campus community centers: the Women’s Center, GLBT Center, African American Cultural Center and Multicultural Student Affairs. Additionally, each of the community centers are equipped with supplies for those who seek to participate in the project.
“I think it’s meant to be something that’s a conversation starter and is very visual,” Kossen said. “People ask questions and they start to learn more about the issue of relationship violence and what that looks like for different individuals. This month in particular, when families are coming with their children to visit the campus — a lot of outside visitors — we have a banner out there with the t-shirts. I think it’s a great space to have people see that, and start to ask questions.”
However, there is more to the project than just a row of t-shirts, as the students behind the shirts have their own stories to tell.
“The other part of The Clothesline Project is giving survivors a place to come process their experience of dealing with trauma and express their healing journey, or if they don’t feel like they’re currently healed, express where they're at right now,” Forcella said.
Along with The Clothesline Project, the entire month of April has been given a theme to fit with the discussions of sexual assault.
“The national theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is ‘Embrace your Voice,’” Forcella said. “We hopefully want to give survivors a chance to embrace their voices and share their experiences, and then also through the workshops and various trainings that we’re doing, we’re also giving the language as well as the means to folks in the community who don’t identify as survivors to also embrace their voices and be able to talk about this as an issue. The more that we talk about it and raise awareness of it, the more likely it is that people will come forward and feel supported if they are survivors.”
In addition to The Clothesline Project, NC State is hosting a series of panels, discussions and trainings in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness month, with several of them planned for later this week.
On April 25, students are encouraged to wear denim to show support for survivors of sexual violence.
“It’s all about understanding how pervasive this is, and how it’s incumbent upon all of us to take a stand and be vocal in opposition of [sexual violence], to support survivors, to believe survivors and to do our part to challenge the normalization of violence,” Kossen said.
Students in need of help can visit the Safe at NC State website. NC State also has its own 24-hour Sexual Assault Helpline, which can be reached at (919) 515-4444.