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Multiple Bloomington-Normal Organizations Stand in Solidarity Against Rape Culture

Written by on April 25, 2024

NORMAL, Ill. – The campus of Illinois State University was decked out in denim and writing on T-shirts as the registered student organization “Students Ending Rape Culture” held their final events of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  

Denim Day and the Clothesline Project are two reoccurring events held by SERC. Denim Day stands in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault, and the Clothesline Project gives them a platform to share their stories. SERC member Isabella Tornabene spoke on the importance of these events.  

“You never know who’s been impacted by this kind of stuff,” Tornabene said. “Most people sometimes don’t even disclose this to anyone. So just knowing that there are people here for them who are in support of them whether they choose to share their stories or not.” 

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and the Clothesline Project’s official website, both events have a lengthy history, whether it be an international court case or a nation-wide exhibit.  

In 1992, an 18-year-old woman was raped by her driving instructor. After taking him to court, the assailant was convicted until he filed for appeals and the case was overturned. The Italian Supreme Court ruled that because the jeans she was wearing were so tight, she must’ve helped him take them off, implying consent. Denim Day was created in protest of this ruling, encouraging people to wear denim in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault.  

The Clothesline Project is done across the nation, with survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault writing messages on T-shirts and displaying them all in a public setting. According to Tornabene, seeing all the stories can be a cathartic experience for some of the viewers.  

“People have disclosed experiences that they’ve had personally,” Tornabene said. “We’re trained on how to handle it, how to be respectful and stuff like that but it really is impactful.”  

SERC is not the only group in the Bloomington-Normal area specializing in the prevention of sexual assault and support of its survivors. The organization “Stepping Stones” is run through the local YWCA and appeared at the Clothesline Project in support of SERC. Advocacy and Education Coordinator Natasha Powers spoke on how Stepping Stones serves the community.  

“So our agency actually does counseling. They [counselors] are trained in specific areas to be able to serve survivors of sexual violence,” Powers said. “We put an emphasis on Aaron’s law, which is the curriculum built to prevent sexual violence and teach children what sexual violence is as well as how to report it.”  

Whether it be throwing on a pair of jeans, or supporting campus events, both SERC and Stepping Stones put an emphasis on the importance of solidarity in the cause of dismantling rape culture.