Around the UNC-Chapel Hill campus last Friday, it appeared that a sea of blue had risen to high tide.
This sea of blue was hundreds of students wearing t-shirts to support a cause that they were passionate about. But what is this cause, and where did the shirts come from? Well, last Wednesday Project Dinah, an initiative focused on ending all sexual violence, handed out hundreds of free t-shirts that read “24-Hour Rape Free Zone” on the front and had a pledge (signed by the wearer) on the back to students walking to and fro classes in the lower quad. These shirts represented this stand against sexual violence. Project Dinah worked with organizations around campus and got them to donate money in order to create the shirts. The young women that were passing out the shirts asked everyone to wear their shirts on Friday to take a stand against sexual violence. While I’m sure that a few of the t-shirt receivers were just excited to get a free shirt, to many students it was more than just another wardrobe addition. I found out just how much it meant to my fellow students while going through my daily routine on Friday.
First sighting: I parked in Rams deck on south campus and before I could even walk across the parking deck to the elevator, I saw two students sporting their shirts with pride. I hadn’t realized before this point that this would be such a successful event. I was proven wrong.
On my walk to the pit I passed at least three people I knew by name, and many others that I didn’t know at all, that were wearing the shirts. I continued to be impressed by the success. And it also made me start to realize that just by wearing simple t-shirts, we were taking a stand against rape and other forms of sexual violence.
As I arrived at the pit, I saw table where all the people were wearing the shirts. This group, the Loreleis, used their widely-known reputation to spread the word. These ladies used their influence to generate awareness. A Lorelei, Maggie Sparling, commented on why she supports the cause and why she wore the shirt. She said, “With so many women on this campus it’s important that we come together as a powerful force. With all of the rapes that I always hear about on the news it seems that raising awareness is more important now than ever.”
Loreleis Maggie Sparling, Emily Spokas, and Kelsey Eaker posed for a picture in their stylish shirts to show their support.
As my day continued on I noticed that female students were not the only ones wearing their shirts. The first guy that I saw wearing it was Dan Bobrowski. He said: “It’s definitely an important issue that we shouldn’t be afraid to unite as one and acknowledge together.”
On my way to the library later that day I bumped into two adults wearing the shirts. After talking with them I learned that they were both part of the Counseling and Wellness Services Department. They told me that the whole department was wearing the shirts today to support Project Dinah. Amy Leach, one of the counselors, said “I wear the shirt because every person has a right to be safe where they live and learn.” Very well put I would say.
Amy Leach and Kevin Shepard the two who run the Courage group on campus. This group is a support group for young men or women that have been sexually assaulted. Contact the Counseling and Wellness Services department for more information.
As the day continued I saw more and more people out openly supporting the cause. And those that weren’t wearing the shirts, well, their attention was captured. Friday UNC students were screaming to the world, “No. No, rape is not acceptable and we refuse to ignore the problem.” And we made the world listen – for at least one day. No ear plugs were allowed.
For more information on Project Dinah, please visit http://studentorgs.unc.edu/projectdinah.