Content Warning: This article discusses sexual assault.
Growing up in China, I was rarely exposed to any discussion of sexual assault, partially because of the country’s traditional and conservative attitudes towards sexuality and partially because of the its lack of freedom of speech, which promptly prohibits many from voicing their opinions.
America — at least in my perception before coming here — is a land where women had already uplifted their social status by fighting the injustice with sweat and blood. This statement certainly holds on some levels. The imbalance in pay between men and women has been reduced significantly ever since Charles Fourier coined the word “feminisme.” Countless other aspects of this movement have resulted in an imperfect triumph. However, sexual violence, or more precisely, sexual assault, has yet to reach the same level of social recognition and awareness.
This concerning issue is exactly what The Clothesline Project, organized by Heidi Greenberg, Donna Baluchi and Joan Gregory, hopes to address. Taking place at the Eccles Health Sciences Library, The Clothesline Project is an art project that displays many shirts with heart-wrenching words written by victims of sexual assault on them.
As sorrowful as many of these statements are, The Clothesline Project is not hopeless or dreary in tone and instead portrays a spirit of fighting, of refusing to stay silent. Some recount experiences of sexual assault, some discuss support from their families and friends. A few call out the outrageous actions of predators. This is not the screaming of fear, but the roaring of justice.
Even though it is held in a campus library, those participating are not limited to only alumni or faculty. “Everyone can come and share his [or] her story, it is an open space,” Greenberg said. As the associate director of the administration, she put much effort into this event with Baluchi and Gregory.
“It certainly does not feel safe walking alone on campus during the night — I asked the campus police to escort me a few times,” said Greenberg. “It should not be this way.” When asked about the sexual assault that was announced hours before our conversation, they all expressed condolences and a sense of anger. There is a layer of incredible irony to all of this. A sexual crime was committed at the same location and date as an event aiming to prevent the same atrocity. But, as hard as it might seem, Heidi and her colleagues are determined to take on this challenge.
This event alone is not the whole picture. Lectures and panels will be held on campus to educate people on this subject. The Priscilla Mayden Lecture, a discussion of using virtual reality for the rehabilitation of domestic violence offenders, is at noon on April 5 at the College of Nursing. Everyone is encouraged to participate. The Clothesline Project will be displayed at the main level of Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library until April 27.