The Clothesline Project: Raising awareness against sexual assault

By Abigail Broderdorf

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and students in the University of Wisconsin–Stout’s Abuse and the Family class, which is taught by Dr. Susan Wolfgram, are helping to break the silence. Students in this class are teaming up with Bridge to Hope, a domestic violence shelter in Menomonie that serves Dunn and Pepin counties, to work on the Clothesline Project.

Samantha Hastings, a senior double majoring in Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies, is the class’ project manager for the Menomonie’s Clothesline Project. This project is one of nine social action projects that the class focuses on for SAAM.

“We wanted to do this project as it is a visual testimony of how prevalent sexual assault is in our society and how important it is to step up and do something,” said Hastings.

“The class teaches us about violence that occurs within family relationships. One of the main goals of the class is to take our learning outside into the community and make a difference. It is important to bring awareness to this issue. By bringing our projects outside the classroom, we begin to uncover this taboo topic.”

The now nationally known Clothesline Project began in 1990 when members of the Cape Cod Women’s Agenda, which is located in Massachusetts, hung shirts designed by survivors of assault, rape and incest.

“The Clothesline Project allows survivors and victims of sexual assault to have a voice by decorating a shirt that will be hung in their own community,” said Hastings.

Students in Dr. Wolfgram’s class will be in the Merle M. Price Commons on Wednesday, April 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for anyone who wants to speak out against sexual violence and design a shirt to donate for the cause.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Sexual violence means that someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent.” It goes on to say that sexual violence “comes in many forms, including forced intercourse, sexual contact or touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and exposure or voyeurism.”

The National Institute of Justice reports that among college women, nine out of 10 victims of rape and sexual assault know their offender.

However, women are not the only victims: in the United States, about 10 percent of all victims are male, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“It is important to pair with men to improve this issue. Men can have a strong voice in saying that sexual violence is not ok,” said Hastings.

There are multiple resources in Menomonie for victims of sexual assault. If you or someone you know have been sexually assaulted, call:

·       911

·       Menomonie police 715-232-1283

·       Campus police 715-232-2222

·       Bridge to Hope 715-235-9074

·       Mayo Clinic Health System 715-235-5531

Another resource is UW–Stout’s Counseling Center, located in 410 Bowman Hall, which is free for all students. Counselors have specialized training in helping people cope with and recover from traumatic reactions that can accompany sexual violence victimization.

Students can also receive medical attention after a sexual assault or domestic violence at Student Health Services, at 103 1st Ave. W.

“We can encourage people to speak out against sexual violence and improve our community,” said Hastings. “We are hoping to provide people with awareness of this issue and make it known in our community that something needs to be done.”

For more information about the Clothesline Project, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/468766076585694/ and  http://www.clotheslineproject.org/

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