Week-long event allows students to anonymously share stories of pain with APU community

A clothesline strung with white T-shirts was hung up at Seven Palms on Monday, Oct. 15.

By the end of the week, the white T-shirts were filled with anonymous messages written by survivors of sexual assault.

“I was drugged by a man in a bar,” one of the T-shirts read. “People thought I was drunk. They let me leave with him. I woke up bloody in a shower. I was beaten and left and taken advantage of. We must stop this culture of violence! My body is not yours to take.”

The Office of Women’s Development (OWD) organized the Clothesline Project throughout the week of Oct. 15-19 to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault within the APU community and to create a safe space for those who have been sexually assaulted to anonymously share their experiences.

Words of hurt and anger were written on the t-shirts in the form of poems and letters. Other community members showed their support by signing a pledge to end sexual assault and violence against women. Some wrote words of encouragement on socks that were hung up on the clothesline next to the T-shirts.

An anonymous message on a T-shirt. Photo by Kendal Shride.

At the start of the week, about a dozen pledges had been signed. The number significantly increased after Pastor James “Woody” Morwood encouraged men to step up and take the pledge in morning chapel on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

Throughout the week, students, staff and faculty were seen silently observing the T-shirts hanging on the clothesline.

The Clothesline Project originated in 1990 when a member of the Cape Cod’s Women’s Defense Agenda learned that during the same time 58,000 soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, 51,000 U.S. women were killed by men “who claimed to love them,” according to the Clothesline Project’s website.

The use of a clothesline is symbolic to the stereotype that doing laundry and hanging clothes is the job of a woman. 

University of Southern California agreed to pay a $215 million settlement on Friday in light of a sexual abuse scandal involving a longtime campus gynecologist. As many as 17,000 students and alumnae are eligible to receive payouts from the settlement, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On average, there are 321,500 victims aged 12 or older of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, according to the National Sexual Assault Hotline. They report that 90% of adult rape victims are female.

Sarah Bernal, junior undergraduate intern at the Office of Women’s Development (OWD), said this event makes people realize how prevalent sexual assault is even among the APU community.

“It carries a lot of shame so this is a time when we can open up the floor for survivors to be freed of whatever their circumstance are or were,” Bernal said.

Mandy Beal, a peer educator with the OWD who volunteered to partake in the project, said it is important for APU to hold this type of event as she feels the topic of sexual assault and violence is stigmatized in Christian environments.

“Because we [Christians] don’t really like to talk about sexual sin or transgression, I think it’s important to bring that forward,” Beal said. “If we don’t talk about it, then it just continues to be perpetuated in Christian culture itself.”

“By hanging the shirt on the line, survivors, friends and family can literally turn their back on some of that pain of their experience and walk away. It allows those who are still suffering in silence to understand that they are not alone.”