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Student Clothesline Project features messages from Sexual Assault Survivors

Written by on October 19, 2023

NORMAL, Ill. – The silence on the quad was deafening as a little empty space by Cook and DeGarmo Hall was used to make a big statement. 

Illinois State University’s registered student organization Students Ending Rape Culture held their semesterly Clothesline Project which consists of T-shirts with phrases written by survivors of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence all hung next to each other on clotheslines. SERC President Becca Mackey went into detail about the event itself, as well as the impact it had on both SERC members and the greater student body. 

“The Clothesline Project is something we do for both domestic violence awareness month and sexual assault awareness month,” Mackey said. “We go into the T-shirt archives we have of probably 30 years and hang up shirts with statements made by survivors of sexual and domestic violence.” 

The messages on the shirts varied from common phrases like “no means no” and “3 drinks are not a yes” to personal messages from the writers to their assailants. Despite these differences, every shirt radiated the power of the messages they held, which was felt by observers, as well as the SERC members themselves. 

“For me personally it’s a very cathartic experience,” Mackey said. “I’ve seen all of these same shirts for a couple of years now and it never feels less impactful.” 

The topic of sexual assault and domestic violence is heavy in any context. Seeing the emotionally charged words of real survivors one after another can be an incredibly impactful experience that puts the commonality of these issues into perspective for the viewer. 

“This is definitely the most emotional event we do, I have seen several people crying, lots of people getting emotional,” Mackey said. “We’ve had some people come up to us and say, ‘it was really hard to handle but it’s one of our favorite events we’ve ever seen.’” 

With the issue of sexual and domestic violence, one of the most notable issues is as simple as getting people to believe that these events do in fact happen and are more common than people may expect. The event highlights that not every major event needs a profound message behind it. 

“These stories are real. Even if you don’t hear them firsthand, they still exist,” Mackey said. “They’re very emotional stories and for someone who’s never seen or heard this kind of story from anyone this could be their first experience with it, and I just want them to take away that you never know who’s been through something like this.” 

SERC will return with the Clothesline Project in April.