CEI t-shirts

T-shirts with decorations and messages from victims of sexual assault hang in the College of Eastern Idaho’s cafeteria on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. CEI special Populations Counselor Julie Thompson said some of the shirts were provided by individuals from Idaho State University’s Idaho Falls campus who wanted to participate.

Dozens of T-shirts hang in the College of Eastern Idaho’s cafeteria in the John E. Christofferson building. Each shirt contains part of a story of someone who experienced sexual assault.

The College of Eastern Idaho is increasing awareness of sexual assault and violence by hosting a clothesline exhibit featuring T-shirts containing messages and decorations from victims and people who know victims.

The exhibit is being held from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14. The college said in a Monday news release it is inviting local residents and students to stop by the cafeteria to view the exhibit or create a T-shirt of their own from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during each day of the exhibit.

“There’s a lot of shame and a lot of resistance to telling people their story because the system historically has not been a place to advocate for victims,” said Julie Thompson, CEI special populations counselor. “Often the system revictimizes the victim.”

The Clothesline Project has become a popular movement among college campuses in the U.S. It started in 1990 in Cape Cod, MA to address violence against women, according to the project’s website. Inspiration for the project came from a statistic from the Men’s Rape Prevention Project in Washington D.C. that says 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam war. During that same period of time, 51,000 women were killed mostly by their partners.

Massachusetts visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper thought of the idea for the T-shirts after being moved by the AIDS quilt from the National AIDS Memorial, the website said. The project has since become a method for women affected by sexual violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt and hanging it on a clothesline for others to see their expression.

One shirt at CEI’s exhibit had text that said “It’s not my fault and it’s not yours either” and another said “My body your shame.”

Most sexual violence cases go unreported and an overwhelming majority of cases do not end up with the perpetrator’s arrest, felony conviction and incarceration, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. About two-thirds of sexual assault cases are unreported to police. Out of 1,000 reported cases, 50 will lead to an arrest, 28 will lead to a felony conviction and 25 will lead to incarceration.

Thompson said people often don’t understand the neural psychology of trauma. When victims report their stories in fragmented, disjointed and nonlinear ways because of their trauma, victims are often not taken seriously, she said.

“Very quickly, a victim is put in a position where they have to defend their story,” Thompson said. “That’s even more overwhelming and more horrifying for people to manage.”

She said it is important for law enforcement agencies and frontline responders to treat victims with kindness, compassion and respect.

“We can’t control peoples’ behavior,” Thompson said. “We can call people out and we can support victims much better than we have in the past.”

During the exhibit, the cafeteria’s audio system plays a drum note every ten seconds to symbolize how often a woman is battered by her significant other in the U.S. A whistle blows every minute for how often a woman reports being raped and an alarm triggers every 15 minutes for how often a woman is killed from a violent attack.

According to the 2020 Idaho Crimes Against Persons report from the Idaho State Police, over 50% of reported victims in Idaho are under the age of 15. More than half of those victims are less than 10-years-old. There were 5,850 cases of intimate partner violence reported and 2,079 reports of general family violence in 2020.

The college will host a luncheon from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Thompson said there will be a presentation on domestic violence and it will also be an opportunity for anyone to share their story if they would like to. Interested individuals can register at https://forms.gle/RPDp5iu9ZWRp4w72A

“We can do better,” Thompson said. “There is so much room to do better.”{/div}

Recommended for you