T-shirts carry message

by Douglas Rojas

Expressions of pain and anger can take many forms, and for University students and victims of sexual assault, T-shirts can serve as a canvas for their feelings.
The Program Against Sexual Violence, a campus organization, is sponsoring a two-day display of T-shirts at the St. Paul Student Center with messages written by people who have been victims of sexual violence.
For event organizers, the display is a strong way to raise University awareness about the issues surrounding sexual assault.
“By setting these T-shirts up, having them displayed out in the open, people can see that (sexual violence) really is an issue that not only touches the victim but anybody around the victim,” said Bridgette Murphy, a family social sciences junior and member of the program who is also running for the vice presidency of the Minnesota Student Association.
The display, named “The Clothesline Project,” went up on Monday and can be seen today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the upper-level lounge of the St. Paul Student Center.
Victims of sexual assault and people concerned about sexual violence painted the T-shirts last year at educational workshops around campus sponsored by the organization.
The T-shirts carry different messages that reflect the many feelings created by child abuse, rape, domestic violence and homicide, said Brye Paetznick, a peer advocate with the program.
There are seven colors of T-shirts on display, with each color standing for a different issue, she said.
White, for example, stands for homicide, red for rape, green for child abuse and yellow for domestic violence, Paetznick said.
For Carol Bjorklund, St. Paul Student Center program adviser, the display has a very powerful message that shows the pain and emotional trauma that victims have gone through.
“Each T-shirt tells a story, a different message and different experience,” Bjorklund said.
The display is not only about pain and anger, however, but also about facing and overcoming those feelings, Murphy said.
“It helps (victims) to get through it and to move on,” Murphy said. “You can see their emotions on the cloth.”
One of the red T-shirts, which carries the message, “butterfly with broken wings, you can learn to fly again,” exemplified the types of messages on display.
Throughout the day, Murphy said, people approached the display to get information about how to help victims of sexual violence and get involved with on-campus organizations.
“It is a good feeling to know that people really appreciate this,” she said.
The T-shirt display comes during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a month long event that attempts to raise and address questions related to sexual violence on campus.
The awareness month programs also highlight the different resources available on campus to deal with sexual violence.
“A lot of people don’t know what the Program Against Sexual Violence is,” said Lisa Twente, a psychology junior. She added that many people on campus don’t know that there are several student groups addressing issues of sexual violence, such as, “Men Against Sexual Violence,” and a 24-hour crisis line.
The crisis line is operated in cooperation with Boynton Health Services and 624-WALK. The phone number for the crisis line is 626-1300.