YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Youngstown State students are bringing a nationwide effort to stand up for victims of sexual violence to their own campus.
Holding shame, stigma, and darkness up to the light, one clothespin and t-shirt at a time. That’s how the Clothesline Project hopes to empower victims of sexual violence.
People can express their emotions by decorating a shirt and then hanging it for display on a clothesline.
There were 20 shirts hanging in Kilcawley Center on Friday — the last day they’re on display. But in their time up, they’ve made quite an impact.
Project organizers said whether the shirt is filled with messages or only has two words written on it, every statement makes a difference.
“It’s really sort of like hanging out your dirty laundry,” Rodger Page said. “It sort of visually represents something that I think people know happens but doesn’t get talked about a lot because it is a difficult subject to talk about.”
But the impact goes way beyond the cotton.
“I think one of my favorite ones is the one down here that talks about teaching peace,” said Kate Fitzgerald, director of residence life.
She said it’s her job to make sure students have the space and voice to express how they feel.
“Our students are oftentimes survivors of assault or violence themselves or have had family members, so it helps them be able to process that.”
“It’s a power issue, it’s a control issue, and it is not focused on one particular culture or group,” said Cynthia Kravitz, with Title IX at YSU.
Messages of support in different languages, short statements, long paragraphs — every shirt was different. It shows that assault has no bounds.
“This is here and it’s here on this campus,” Page said. “I think a lot of times we try to distance ourselves from situations and say, ‘That can’t happen to me, that doesn’t happen here.'”
He said everyone needs to be aware.
“Violence to one individual is violence against all of us as humans. So I think we need to care for each other, and showing that compassion and understanding.”
Aside from the Clothesline Project, YSU is holding a Take Back the Night march and rally against sexual violence on April 13 at 4 p.m.
For more information, contact Fitzgerald at the Office of Housing and Residence Life at 330-941-3539.
You can anonymously report incidents of sexual assault on YSU’s website.