This week UND, along with the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC), hosted Take Back the Night and the Clothesline Project to show support for and tell the stories of survivors and victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape.
The Clothesline Project was on campus from Monday through Friday in the Memorial Union Ballroom and featured countless t-shirts of different colors that represented the type of abuse that the survivor endured.
White represents women who died as a result of violence. Yellow and beige represent survivors of physical assault or domestic violence. Red, pink and orange represent survivors of rape and sexual assault. Blue and green represent survivors of incest or childhood sexual abuse. Purple is for women attacked because of their perceived sexual orientation. Brown and gray are for survivors of emotional, spiritual, or verbal abuse. Black is for those who were disabled as the result of an attack or assaulted because of a disability.
The Ballroom was completely silent, until the sound of a gong, whistle, or bell rang out. The gong sounded about every ten seconds, signifying a woman who had been battered by her husband or significant other. The whistle would blow about once a minute to indicate that a woman had reported being raped. The bell rings to indicate that a woman has been killed in a violent attack, with three to four murders occurring every day.
No amount of time could ever be enough to take in the message of each shirt and the unique story that it told, especially when the organizers had to begin taking down the project two hours early on Friday to accommodate an event using the space the next morning.
The Clothesline Project was started in Hyannis, Massachusetts in 1990 and has since continued its mission of educating students and the community that violence exists everywhere, that there is help available and that there is hope and a path to healing. It aims to give voices to those who have been silenced and motivate the public to prevent violence by opening people’s eyes to what is happening around them.
The Take Back the Night rally was held on Thursday night, which included a march from the Memorial Union to the Chester Fritz Auditorium, where participants were served food and drink before the presentation began. Two survivors spoke at the program: one who endured sexual assault and rape and another who endured domestic abuse throughout his childhood. To say that their stories touched the hearts of the listeners would be an understatement. Their strength to withstand unimaginable pain and bravery to face an audience of hundreds to what they had gone through was beyond inspiring.
The mission of Take Back the Night is to end sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and all other forms of sexual violence. Since the events began in the 1960’s in Belgium and England, Take Back the Night events have been held in over 36 countries, with more locations joining in every year.
The last speaker of the night was CVIC Executive Director Kristi Hall-Jiran, who had planned to present David Molmen, the CEO of Altru, with this year’s Peacemaker Award, but seeing as he would not be able to attend Take Back the Night, a video was shown of Molmen being presented the award prior to the event instead. The prestigious Peacemaker Award is given annually to those who have gone above and beyond in working for peace in the community. Hall-Jiran also announced that almost a week prior to Take Back the Night, on September 28, the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) was the busiest it had ever been with survivors reporting their assaults.
If you are a survivor of any kind of harassment, assault, or abuse and are looking for help, do not hesitate to contact the CVIC crisis line at 701-746-8900 or office line at 701-746-0405, National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or the University Counseling Center at 701-777-2127.