UCI Stands in Solidarity

UCI Clothesline Project

    Colorful T-shirts adorned the outside of Langson Library last week in efforts to break the silence around violence against women. This exhibit, called The Clothesline Project, resembled clothesline-hung garments in a variety of colors to symbolize the different stories of survivors, family, friends, and allies.

 

    The impactful visual display illustrated the violence perpetrated against women and the strength it takes to turn experiences into art. In efforts to promote healing, survivors and allies were encouraged to design shirts with powerful messages and images for the public to see. Students were able to walk through the rows of T-shirts and learn about the effect that sexual violence has on women of their community.

 

The Clothesline Project was put together by CARE, Campus Assault Resources and Education, and held on display for three days. The final day of this exhibit was accompanied by a nightlong event to raise awareness about sexual violence, Take Back The Night.

 

Take Back The Night 2017

As the T-shirts that told the stories of survivors and allies gently swung in the wind behind us, a crowd began to quickly gather by the flagpoles. While more and more students approached the location, joyous music flowed from the speakers. The crowd only began to grow as the night’s keynote speakers, Jade M. Turner and Michele Goodwin, ardently educated the crowd on sexual violence and how it impacts survivors. The tone quickly became solemn as the crowd listened to Turner’s speech about how sexual violence impacts individuals, particularly women of color, people in the LGBTQ+ community, and those who are undocumented; and how their experiences often go unreported because their communities are not always provided adequate support or legal assistance, and oftentimes may not trust institutions such as the police and criminal justice system. 

 

 

Take Back the Night is an annual on-campus event hosted by CARE (Campus Assault Resources and Education) and its peer education groups such as Right to KNOW, Challenging All Men to Prevent Sexism (CHAMPS), and Greek Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP). Its aim is to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with people who have been impacted by sexual violence. Sexual violence entails domestic violence, relationship abuse, stalking, sexual assault, and so on.

After the keynote speeches, students gathered around a table at the foot of the stairs, picked up their candles, and the candlelight vigil began. As the march progressed, students chanted “Two, four, six, eight, no more date rape” and “Join together, free our lives, we will not be victimized” while the women of Mahoroba USA pounded drums and created a collective sentiment of solidarity among the crowd.

As a plethora of voices rang in the air, it was clear to see the pain that stung the words of survivors as they marched on.

 

While we continued to march, I could not help but wonder how many people in the crowd were survivors of sexual violence. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reports that one in six women will be a victim of attempted or completed rape. However, women on college campuses are three times more likely than the average women to experience sexual violence. Events such as The Clothesline Project and Take Back the Night are incredibly important when it comes to empowering those who have experienced sexual violence, especially women in college.

Following the march, students got the chance to visit various stations positioned by the flagpoles. Many of these stations were hosted by organizations and Greek communities on campus. Some noteworthy stations included: Phi Lambda Rho’s Not One More/Ninguna Mas, Alpha Chi Omega’s “Love is…”, and ASUCI’s Ribbons of Survival. My personal favorite was the therapy dog station (of course). There were also self-care stations set up to assist any individuals who might have become overwhelmed by the night’s events.

 

 

In the wake of sexual violence, survivors oftentimes face short- and long-term physical, mental and spiritual effects. The Joyful Heart Foundation reports that it is not uncommon for survivors to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and dissociation following their experience(s). It is imperative to provide resources and support for those who have been impacted by sexual violence.

The compelling alliance that was formed between survivors and allies at Take Back the Night created a powerful environment that evoked emotion and support. Jade M. Turner culminated her speech by stating three simple phrases that can empower and support survivors of sexual violence: “I believe you. It was not your fault. You are not alone.”

 

CARE offers support services for individuals in the UCI community who have been impacted by stalking, relationship abuse, sexual assault, and/or family abuse. Some of the services they provide include group therapy, advocacy, and holistic healing. The CARE office is located on the third floor of in the Student Center (G320). Their website also provides extensive information about their services and education regarding sexual violence.

Photo Sources: (1-2, 4-6)