Sexual assault awareness project displays shirts, messages by The Arch


Linnea Narducci/The Daily Northwestern

T-shirts with messages from sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, as well as supporters, are displayed by The Arch. The Clothesline Project, organized by Sigma Psi Zeta sorority, is an annual event, but this is the first time the shirts have been displayed outside.

Claire Hansen, Reporter

Dozens of T-shirts decorated with personal messages from sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, and those standing in solidarity, hung on clotheslines by The Arch and in the Norris University Center Galleria on Monday.

The Clothesline Project is an annual event hosted by Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc. The sorority collaborated with the Center for Awareness, Response and Education and Students Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge for Change, a student organization sponsored through CARE. The event will run through Tuesday.

This year marks the first time the shirts are being displayed outdoors instead of only in Norris, which is where they have hung in previous years, said Tiffany Zheng, president of Sigma Psi Zeta.

Zheng said when her organization decided to move the display to The Arch, it invited CARE and SPEAK for Change to participate and help navigate the challenges that displaying the messages in a public place presented.

“We were concerned about displaying these T-shirts with potentially triggering phrases in a public place,” Zheng said. “When we partnered with CARE, we were able to bring up these issues with them, and have some people there with resources.”

SPEAK for Change had a table near the event to provide information and resources to passersby who are interested. Chicago-based nonprofit Rape Victim Advocates also had a table near the shirts to provide survivor support and resources to those who need it.

Additionally, Sigma Psi Zeta shortened the event to two days, Zheng said. In prior years, the shirts have been on display for a week.

Colleges nationwide hold similar events, but the NU project is not affiliated with a national organization, Medill junior Emagin Tanaschuk, chair of SPEAK for Change, said.

Tanaschuk said she thinks the clothesline display is a powerful way to give survivors and supporters a platform to share.

“There’s always banners hung up around (The Arch), and I feel like people start to tune that out, but today it’s a different look and I can see a lot of people turning their heads and reading it,” Tanaschuk said. “It’s all about survivors being able to tell their story and people reading the shirts as well, maybe something resonates with them.”

The purple shirts and most of the white shirts were made by NU community members in an event at the CARE office last week, Tanaschuk said. The rest of the shirts displayed were created at RVA events, said RVA volunteer Nick Rudauskas.

Carrie Wachter, coordinator of sexual violence response services and advocacy at CARE, said the shirts are a more “in your face” way to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence.

“It’s really just about displaying survivor stories of relationship violence or sexual violence and messages of solidarity; I think it’s really important to see that,” Wachter said.

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Twitter: @clairechansen