Clothesline Project raises awareness for sexual assault

On April 13, the Wellness Resource Center held The Clothesline Project at The Bell Tower as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Members from The Student Activists Against Sexual Assault at The Wellness Resource Center's The Clothesline Project on April 13. | ALLISON BECK / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Students who packed Beury Beach on Thursday may have seen a nine-foot display of brightly colored t-shirts blowing in the breeze, bearing positive messages for sexual assault and abuse survivors.

“I didn’t know it was an event, but it’s awesome to look around, and I love the support that they’re trying to give for students,” said Cassidy Paz, a freshman psychology major who had just walked by the Bell Tower. 

The Clothesline Project event, part of the Wellness Resource Center’s plans to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month, featured t-shirt artwork in an effort to elevate survivors’ voices and the resources available to them. 

Temple began participating in the Clothesline Project in 2012, and has since gathered more than 400 shirts from survivors in the university community. 

“All of these shirts have been created by current and former Temple students over the past probably about 10 years,” said Liz Zadnick, director of the Wellness Resource Center. “And we try to bring the campus community together in support of healing, of hope, of social change.” 

The Student Activists Against Sexual Assault hosted a table at the event where community members could design a shirt. Several attendees chose to write an encouraging note to stick to SAASA’s poster board, which allowed people to anonymously show their support for victims and survivors. 

“It’s just a really powerful but, like, great way to showcase survivors and positive messages,” said Ava Senne, a member of SAASA who was at the event.

The Clothesline Project started in Massachusetts in 1990 as a way for women to turn faceless sexual assault and domestic violence statistics into education and art. The project was inspired by the AIDS quilt, a 54-ton tapestry which displays decorated fabric panels dedicated to more than 110,000 victims of the AIDS epidemic. 

Similarly, The Clothesline Project encourages survivors to design a t-shirt to represent their story, then hang that shirt on a clothesline to display it for people passing by. Approximately between 50,000 and 60,000 shirts have been made worldwide as part of the movement, according to the project’s website.

“So many people at the school have experienced something and have a story,” said Ray Epstein, president of SAASA. “And it’s, it’s kind of cool to see it all in one place. I mean, it’s not cool, but it’s powerful.”

Slightly more than 26 percent of female, 23.1 percent of transgender, genderqueer or gender non-conforming and 6.8 percent of male undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Only 20 percent of women report an incident to law enforcement. 

Zadnick pointed toward resources, like Tuttleman Counseling Services, Women Organized Against Rape and Our Wave, which had tables at the event, as places for survivors to go for confidential support. Students and staff who approached the tables found free merch and were able to talk to staff from each organization about their offerings.

“We want to remove that stigma and to embrace survivors and help them to know that they have the support of the university as well as the community,” said LaQuisha Anthony, the advocacy coordinator at WOAR. 

Veronica Rin, another member of SAASA, hopes for positive social change at Temple. 

“I hope people take away the fact that there are other students that are identifying and recognizing that sexual assault is really is a topic that needs to be discussed and handled on campus,” Rin said.  

Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Temple will continue with Denim Day on April 26. The Wellness Center will also be hosting Sex Ed Week this upcoming week, with a resource fair on Monday, talks on Tuesday and a research symposium on Thursday.

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