By Gianluca D’Elia
White T-shirts with colorfully decorated, poignant statements lined the outside of Cranberry’s, the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) patio and the campus green on April 11 and 12 to raise awareness on sexual assault and domestic violence.
The campaign, led by Prevention Education Coordinator Susan Stahley for the third year in a row, was part of a nationwide program called the Clothesline Project. The project started in 1990 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to shed light on the issue of violence against women.
“It’s a wonderful awareness campaign where students themselves can create the message and students read the messages and are impacted by them,” Stahley said. “You’ll see support, you’ll see true stories, and you’ll see profound statements that just make you kind of sick.”
Some T-shirts displayed statements of support and solidarity from campus organizations, fraternities and sororities, while other shirts delivered brief, powerful statements, such as “I was only 12,” “Consent isn’t sexy, it’s mandatory” and “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent: Break the silence and stop the violence.”
Stahley said the last two universities she worked at brought the Clothesline Project to campus, and that it was one of the first projects she wanted to do when she started to work at Rider three years ago. Every year, she saves T-shirts from the previous year, so the collection keeps growing larger — before students began making T-shirts on the morning of April 11, two clotheslines of T-shirts already spanned the patio of the BLC and the outdoor area by Cranberry’s.
Stahley recalled that one year, when the project was moved indoors because of a rainstorm, she hung T-shirts inside and put them on the backs of chairs and booths in Cranberry’s.
“People would read them and then decide not to sit in the chair because they were that moved by the message,” she said.
Junior sociology major Destiny Cherry said having events like this one is important because the shirts generate conversations.
“There are so many things people don’t understand about things like this,” Cherry said. “There are so many things left unsaid. We need to reject the myth of the ‘rapist’ or of what domestic abuse is. More often than not, a person is victimized by someone they know, not some random guy in a trench coat behind a bush.”
Clinical and mental health counseling graduate student Stacy Manners said the campus’s response to the project is revealing of how many individuals are affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, but it also provides a sense of hope and shows how supportive the campus community is.
“You cannot simply walk by without noticing the countless number of T-shirts strung across the busiest space on campus,” Manners said. “The numerous rows full of T-shirts show that there are support networks both on and off campus.
“I love that Susan Stahley brings awareness and provides a safe space for supporters and survivors. Whether someone makes a shirt, stops to chat or reads the powerful notes on the shirts, the message is heard loud and clear.”
“To me,” Cherry added, “making my shirt was my way of saying, ‘I understand what happens and I am not okay with it.’”