Thousands of students in Merced this week are walking past a clothesline meant to change their thinking about sexual violence, and there’s evidence it may be working, according to researchers.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and on Wednesday advocates set up the Clothesline Project at Merced College and UC Merced. The clotheslines are covered with messages which victims or others scrawled across T-shirts.
“He did it to me and got away with it,” one T-shirt said. “I wish I would have told someone.”
The messages are a way for victims to tell their stories anonymously and, perhaps, gain some healing, according to Taylor Fugere, the program coordinator of Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education.
He did it to me and got away with it. I wish I would have told someone.
One T-shirt read
This year, the office has focused on the language used around sexual violence. “We are talking a lot about how we can change the way we talk about it,” she said.
Sexual assault on college campuses began to garner more scrutiny in 2014, after the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault estimated that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, most often in their freshman or sophomore years. In the majority of cases, it’s by someone the woman knows, and most often women don’t report what happened.
Despite more attention, victim-blaming continues to be an issue with many students. “(People) say, ‘They shouldn’t have gone on a date with that person,’ ” Fugere said as an example of victim-blaming. “ ‘They should not have put themselves in that place.’ ”
“No one asks or deserves to be hurt,” she said.
No one asks or deserves to be hurt.
Taylor Fugere, the program coordinator of Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education
The Clothesline Project appears to be making headway on the effort to change minds, according to Nella Van Dyke, a sociology professor at UC Merced.
This is the third year in which the professor and graduate students have conducted sexual assault surveys with students. Some students then check out the project display while others look at sexual assault statistics or read a newspaper article, and then they take another survey.
The researchers look to see if the survey takers have changed their minds in the second survey. “Personal messages have more of an impact on people as far as their beliefs than statistics or data,” Van Dyke said.
Several more awareness events are planned this month. “The Vagina Monologues” is planned April 28, 29 and 30 at the Lakireddy Auditorium at UC Merced. Tickets are $5 and proceeds benefit the Valley Crisis Center.