Clothesline, ribbons and awareness April 9, 2009
One in six American women have been victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. One in four college women have been victims of rape or attempted rape since the age of 14. The risk of rape is four times higher for those aged 16 to 24 than for any other age group. One in nine Calvin women have been victims of rape or attempted rape since the age of 14—and 90 percent of those victims were assaulted by an acquaintance.
"This is an incredibly prevalent problem, nationally, globally and on Calvin’s campus,” said Sarah Ten Broek, a counselor in the Broene Counseling Center and a member of Calvin’s Sexual Assault Prevention Team (SAPT). The team will be sponsoring several events to raise awareness of sexual assault during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
T-shirts with a message
One of those events is the Clothesline Project, an event that features t-shirts about sexual assault made by survivors of sexual assault (and their supporters) and displayed on a public clothesline.
Survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones will be given an opportunity to make t-shirts for display on the clothesline in three Tuesday, April 14 sessions (11:30–12:30 p.m.; 1–2 p.m. and 2–5 p.m.), one Wednesday, April 15 session (1–5 p.m.) and one Thursday, April 16 session (1–3 p.m.). All sessions will be held in the Chapel Undercroft.
Calvin sophomore Sarah Angeloff, the survivor of both childhood molestation and rape, will be making a t-shirt. Actually, she'll be making two. "I made one last year to go through the motions and see what it was like to express my feelings that way, and I found it to be pretty powerful," she said of the Clothesline Project experience. "This year I'm making a child-size t-shirt for my childhood story and an adult size for my rape story. They are two totally different entities in my life, and both have to be dealt with in such different ways, since they both impacted me at such different times and under extremely different circumstances."
Making a t-shirt as an testament of sexual assault is more than a symbolic act, said Ten Broek: "The hope is that this will be a healing experience for someone who has survived a sexual assault.“ Victims of sexual assault can feel so isolated and ashamed—so to break that silence can be very healing," she said.
Angeloff agreed: "It is a feeling of liberation and relief, mixed with pain, self-doubt and betrayal. But most importantly, I feel growth and a sense of accomplishment that I can look back on these two times in my life and see darkness, but also a light around them ... making the shirts re-enforces those feelings of growth."
Advocates and ribbons
At 7 p.m. on the 16th, the Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates will speak in the Chapel to raise awareness about sexual assault. The group, from Central Michigan University, will educate the audience about how friends, acquaintances and even bystanders can step in to prevent sexual assault.
"It’s always good to have a group of people who are peers, other students, who have an incredible amount of expertise on the topic—and who can challenge to make ending and preventing sexual assault as their business,” said Ten Broek.
Throughout next week, SAPT will also be raising awareness by passing out lavender ribbons from a table in Johnny’s Café.
Sexual assault leaves survivors anxious, afraid and depressed, said Ten Broek, and they can develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Giving survivors the opportunity to speak about their experience can be a key to their healing: “It’s helpful for people to see that they’re not alone.”
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing