The month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month both for the United States and St. Mary’s College, and several events on campus brought a spotlight to the ever-important issue of violence against women. Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE), the First Responders Network, and the Green Dot program worked together organize and hold a series of events to raise awareness, including the popular Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign and the Clothesline Project.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an international movement of men against sexual violence, was hosted for the fourth time at the St. Mary’s track. As in past years, it drew a significant crowd of some hundred and fifty people and brought the local community together in an expression of support against sexual violence.
In addition to Walk a Mile and other interactive projects, perhaps one of the most moving and visible displays during April is the Clothesline Project. In the main stairwell to the Great Room, T-shirts are hung on long strings, each bearing a different, deeply personal message about the profound physical and psychological impact of sexual assault.
“It’s all SMCM students,” Emma Kaufman, a junior who helped set up the Project, said. “As difficult as it is to look at, the Clothesline Project is a tool to initiate much needed conversations on how to end sexual assault on the St. Mary’s campus, and in contemporary society.”
The Clothesline Project remains controversial to some degree, both because it is potentially traumatic and triggering to survivors and those with similar experiences, and because of a series of anti-Clothesline Project messages on the anonymous social app Yik Yak, where a few students expressed discomfort with the content of the T-shirts, often in rather vulgar ways.
However, there are warnings set up around the Project, which both provide a warning about the potentially triggering content and establish the continued exigence of its message in a world where violence against women is still all too common.