Clothesline Project raises awareness of sexual assault on college campuses

Manu Bayraktar, a junior geoscience major, volunteers for the annual Clothesline Project outside of the Student Union on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Each t-shirt symbolizes the past and present experiences of a UConn student who has either suffered from sexual assault or been moved by survivors. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

T-shirts were lined up on a clothesline on Fairfield Way in front of the Student Union this week as part of the annual Clothesline Project of UConn’s Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP).

The shirts hung were made by survivors and secondary survivors of gender-based violence to raise awareness of these occurrences on campus.

Each t-shirt symbolizes the past and present experiences of a UConn student who has either suffered from sexual assault or been moved by survivors. The color of each shirt holds a separate meaning. Red t-shirts represent people who were sexually assaulted or raped, yellow t-shirts represent people who were battered or physically assaulted and blue t-shirts represent people who are survivors of incest or child abuse.

Many t-shirts included common themes. They teach that yes means yes and no means no. Many of the shirts conveyed that often people are sexually assaulted by someone they confide in.

The project was created back in 1990 by the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda in Massachusetts as a tribute to the 51,000 women in America killed by men who stated they loved their partners during the same time that 58,000 men died in the Vietnam War. Because of these casualties, the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda wanted to publicize the issue through the project. The concept of the clothesline was visually inspired by Rachel Carey-Harper, an artist with the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda.

According to a pamphlet being given out at the table, rape is the most common violence-related crime on American college campuses today and as many as 53 percent of college students have experienced at least one incident of dating violence. This means that over half of the college student population have physically suffered from a partner.

“It’s important to spread awareness that this is an issue on campus,” said eighth semester student and VAWPP member Suze Cayer. “One in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college.”

A common occurrence with sexual assaults is victim blaming, which is wholly placing the blame of the trauma on the one who was raped. People are taught how to protect themselves against others attempting to rape them. However, there is rarely any education to mitigate rape from happening in the first place. What should be taught is that rape should not be something people have to worry about at all.

“It saddens me that we still live in a society where rape is acceptable and permitted,” said first semester student Victoria Trautman. “But I’m really happy to see that students are taking initiative.”

The Clothesline Project will also be occurring one last time on Fairfield Way today. The line of t-shirts is hard to miss and it is important to be aware of the words written on the shirts by peers who have been affected by sexual assault. It is also not too late to create a t-shirt. Until the end of this week, people can make their own t-shirts in the VAWPP Office on the fourth floor of the Student Union between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Kevin Li is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at