Taking back the night remembers abuse victims

Home Features Taking back the night remembers abuse victims

Erika Wilhite

Published: April 12, 2006

On April 6 the University of West Florida hosted Take Back the Night, the largest event of Sexual Abuse Awareness Week. A barbecue dinner took place on Cannon Green; live local bands played throughout the evening, punctuated by guest speakers, including PJC president Tom Delaino and UWF provost Sandra Flake. The speeches were part of the Take Back the Night Colloquium, which also featured poetry readings and survivor’s stories. A candle light vigil – including a moment of silence – rounded out the evening.

“This event was primarily a partnership between UWF and Lakeview Center, and PJC got involved a couple of years ago,” said Emily Mahood, PJC’s volunteer coordinator and rape risk reduction educator. “This is my first year being involved with the project. We all work collaboratively on a committee.”

Take Back the Night is a national event, and Mahood said that UWF’s chapter was founded a few years ago after an on-campus rape.

“[Events like these] bring awareness,” said Mahood. “Residence halls all get involved; Greek organizations get involved, so it definitely brings a lot more awareness to the campus as a whole. For the PJC campus, classes are brought out here, people get extra credit for coming out, student organizations, student government gets involved – it gets the word out that this thing is still pervasive in the community.”

An important part of the day’s events began at 8 a.m. with the hanging of the T-shirts created for the Clothesline Project on the library green. Added to the existing collection from previous years, which has been on display all week, an estimated total of 700 shirts were placed on display.

The Clothesline Project  is a nation-wide program that started in Cape Cod, Maryland in 1990 as a means of addressing sexual violence and a vehicle for the expression of the full range of emotions experienced by victims, survivors and their loved ones.

The project was initially suggested by Rachel Carey-Harper, inspired by the AIDS quilt. She chose T-shirts hanging on a clothesline because laundry has historically been considered “women’s work” and the medium lent itself well to public display.

Those interested in designing a shirt are free to write whatever they choose, but shirts are color-coded to represent the particular type of suffering undergone by the victim. ÿWhite represents women who died because of violence; yellow and beige are for assaulted or battered women; red, pink and orange are for survivors of rape and other sexual assault; blue and green are for survivors of incest and on-going sexual abuse; purple and lavender for women attacked because of their sexual orientation; and black for those attacked for political reasons.

If you are interested in creating a shirt or just learning more about the project, check out http://www.clotheslineproject.org.

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