Shirts of all colors can be seen hanging over Fairfield Way until Thursday, commemorating victims and honoring the survivors of sexual assault.
The Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP), which is run out of the Women’s Center, is holding the clothesline project at the University of Connecticut on its 35-year anniversary.
“The display intends to honor survivors and remember victims,” Lauren Donais, the VAWPP coordinator said. “It is also intended to aid in the healing process for those who have been directly affected by sexual and/or relationship violence and raise awareness about the prevalence of these human rights violations happening right here in our own community.”
According to Donais, rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today and roughly 53 percent of college students have experienced at least one incident of dating violence.
“We’re hoping to spread more awareness about how widespread gender based violence is,” Terri Bulan, senior psychology major and a student peer facilitator for the VAWPP said. “It touches everybody no matter gender, sex, sexual orientation,” said Bulan.
“A lot of people just automatically assume it’s rape perpetrated onto a female victim by a random man hiding in the bushes and we’re trying to debunk a lot of those myths about this,” Burlan said.
She emphasized that most of these cases are not simply random.
Bulan has focused much of her attention and energy towards motivating the majority of silent supporters to have more of a voice.
“Some people are very supportive,” Bulan said. “The one thing I’ve noticed is that people are supportive, but they’re quiet about it.”
Adam Gagnon, a fifth semester communications and sociology major, observed the clothesline and got to talk with VAWPP representatives. He was pleasantly surprised at the increasing attention these issues are garnering since his freshman year.
“I think it’s really important. Especially this being my third year on campus—it’s definitely really nice to see things like this getting a lot more attention,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon was pleased to see the efforts by VAWPP to make their organization and cause known.
“We’ve had a lot of bad publicity as a university with not responding the right way to sexual assault and incidences on campus, so it’s nice to see that there’s a lot of programs and people who do care,” Gagnon said.
Matthew Brush, fourth semester women studies major and peer facilitator with VAWPP, felt compelled to take action on the issue of sexual assault.
“I got involved because I saw issues on the campus. In the past couple years we’ve had a lot of assaults come forward. I felt like it was something that needed to be addressed both on a campus level and on a more national level,” said Brush. He believes that the clothesline project is a perfect way to connect directly with students on a peer-to-peer interaction.
Brush mentioned that the most recent Fire and Safety Report update shows that more victims are coming forward based on an increase in reported incidents.
As much progress that has been made in terms of starting the campus-wide conversation regarding sexual assaults, “I still think the university has a long way to go in terms of how we approach working with victim survivors and working with people who are deeply affected by these issues as well as providing more information for students,” Brush said.
Addy Ladoja, a fifth semester psychology major, said, “I hope that people’s eyes are open.” She commented on how she didn’t see a lot of people interacting with the clothesline representatives and was unsure if people knew why it was there.
Ladoja explained her desire for the UConn student body to become more aware of these issues, so that it’s not an isolated discussion.
“I just hope that in the end we’re not only talking to the people that this happened to, but we’re targeting people and telling them, ‘Hey, rape is not OK,’” Ladoja said.
As much as the clothesline project is to honor those who have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, sexual assault, it’s also focused on making sure these incidents decrease on campus.
“A lot of people don’t understand that this isn’t something that just happens, this is something that is preventable,” Bulan said.