"The Clothesline Project"

T-shirts with anonymous accounts of sexual assault and violence hang against a black board in the John J. Hemmingson Center rotunda. 

Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault and other sensitive topics

“The Clothesline Project,” which is being put on by the Office of Health Promotion (OHP), focuses on honoring and bringing awareness to the stories and experiences of survivors of sexual assault and abuse on campus. 

The project is on display from Oct. 18-29 and is located on the first floor of the John J. Hemmingson Center by the stairs near the welcome desk.

The idea was originally proposed by Katie Aguirre, a student employee at the OHP. The project was inspired by Utah Valley University, as the school does something similar every year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Aguirre and other student-employees helped to organize the collection and display.

T-shirts with handwriting on them detailing the anonymous stories of students, staff members and their loved ones are shown. Additionally, there are three pedestals with statistics and resources relating to sexual assault and other forms of abuse.    

Students and staff members were able to share the stories of either themselves or their loved ones via tabling, social media and an anonymous submission form throughout the first few weeks of October. Student-employees then transcribed the anonymous submission forms onto the shirts.

The shirts are a variety of different colors, with each color representing a different form of assault or abuse. These include domestic violence from an intimate partner, childhood abuse, sexual assault, emotional abuse and domestic violence based on someone’s identity, such as sexual orientation or physical or mental disability, among others.

Bethany Hickey, a staff member from OHP, was heavily involved in the process and worked with student employees to help set it up.

“The main goal of the Clothesline Project is to bring awareness about the impact violence has had on the Zag community by sharing the stories of survivors,” Hickey said. “It’s meant to show that violence does exist in our community and that it oftentimes has an isolating effect.” 

Sexual assault is a common occurrence on most college campuses. According to one of the pedestals titled “Intimate Partner Violence Statistics,” 1 in 3 college students have been abused by an intimate partner.  

The statistics also touch on how sexual assault and abuse disproportionately affect women of color and members of the LGBTQ plus community. According to the display, women of color are two times more likely than white women to experience intimate partner violence.

“44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women [having] experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women,” the display says. 

Senior Makayla Garcia works at the front desk in Hemmingson, so she sees the traffic of students entering the building. She normally works in the mornings, but recently has been scheduled to work later hours on Tuesday’s. 

On average, 10 to 20 students stop by during her shift to look at the statistics, read the shirts and even take pictures. 

“I haven’t really actually engaged with [the display], I’ve just seen what the shirts are and then people stop by and take pictures, so I’m assuming it’s something that’s controversial and making people curious,” Garcia said.  

The main goal of The Clothesline Project is to bring a new level of awareness to violence on college campuses, specifically GU. Students and staff members are encouraged to take the time to listen to stories of those who have experienced some form of violence and educate themselves so that in the future, they feel empowered to speak up and act.  

“We all have a role in preventing harm in our community,” Hickey said.  “So while some topics might be tough to discuss, I think not talking about them only allows harmful things to continue. Open discussion about tough topics like violence can help students and staff feel more confident about intervening if or when that situation arises. 

"I hope that students and staff who experience the impact of violence can look at the display and see that they’re not alone, and for those of us who are lucky enough to have never been impacted by violence," Hickey said. "I hope it sparks some desire for action.” 

If students or staff members need support, there are a variety of campus resources available that they can access.

For immediate emergencies, campus security is available. On-Campus Advocate, a partnership GU has with Lutheran Community Services, supports students who have experienced sexual assault and other forms of violence. Health and Counseling and the Center for Cura Personalis are also available for any students who are struggling, need extra support or are dealing with violence in their lives.

Sophia McKinstry is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @sophvmckinstry.

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