T-shirts detailing messages from many women about their experiences with sexual assault hang on a clothesline.
Arts & Life, Events

LBSU students get their struggles off their backs

An entire story could be read on one of the shirts hanging from a tree on upper campus.

It was called “Antacids,” and it read, “You said she had heartburn. I saw you put antacids in her water. She later slumped while her friends violated her.”

A disturbing occurrence of events, which ended, “I saw and watched her heart still burn 15 years later.”

These sorts of messages and empowering phrases were painted on dozens of T-shirts that swayed from clotheslines at Long Beach State’s Central Quad on Wednesday.

The display was put on by Young Women’s Christian Association as an opportunity for people to learn more about real sexual assault and domestic violence experiences that happened to others and encourage students to share stories of their own.

“The simple idea behind it is basically airing out the dirty laundry on issues like sexual assault, since these are issues that are usually not talked about openly,” said Jacqueline Urtez, a YWCA sexual assault victim’s advocate for LBSU.

The Clothesline Project started as a way to break the silence surrounding sexual molestation. Its theme is centered around the conversations that women have with each other while hanging clothes on an outdoor clothesline.

“[This project] is to fight that stigma [of being silent over sexual assault],” Urtez said.

Though students could also make their own, many of the T-shirts came from donations.

“Some of them are survivor stories, some of them are just inspirational messages, some of them are friends or family members of someone who’s experienced violence,” Urtez said.

The shirt’s colors have different meanings: white represented women who died from violence; blue and green for incest survivors; red, pink and orange for rape survivors, purple for women attacked for their sexual orientation, yellow for battered or assaulted women; and black for women attacked for their political beliefs.

The words painted on each shirt were meant to give off explicit or positive feelings to grab people’s’ attention.

One pink shirt read, “Protect our Women, Teach our Men.” On a blue shirt, the words “Supporting,” “Surviving,” and “Thriving” were stacked on top of one another.

A red shirt offered the advice: “You should not be victim blamed after trying to seek for help.”

YWCA sets up the Clothesline Project on campus every April as part of sexual assault awareness month.

“It’s just a different form of bringing awareness to different communities,” Urtez said. “As opposed to your typical presentation or workshop.”

The nonprofit provides free crisis services for sexual assault victims from Long Beach to south Los Angeles. Though Urtez represents the YWCA office on campus, the organization’s awareness projects are held in high schools and community colleges all over the area.

“Sexual assault is something hard to talk about,” Urtez said. “We kind of provide that safe space.”

The event got a lot of attention, but some students don’t believe that this event only pays “lip service” to the realities of these issues.

“If CSULB really wants to get serious about the issue of sexual assault, they’d take Title IX reports seriously and make sure that groups responsible for sexual assault are properly disciplined and monitored,” said political science and American Sign Language linguistics major Kirsten Hernandez.

Rachel Barnes contributed to this article.

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