Sexual Assault Response Team displays shirts around campus

Abby Fuller

STATESBORO — The clotheslines hung around the Statesboro campus this week are a message of empowerment from the Georgia Southern Sexual Assault Response Team.

For nearly 20 years, Georgia Southern has hosted an annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week to raise awareness about sexual violence. This year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week on the Statesboro campus will take place from Feb. 24 to Feb. 28.

The Clothesline Project provides a visual representation of the impact of sexual assault, along with other types of interpersonal violence, according to Patterson.

Each of the three display locations will have tables set up where students can get involved by making their own shirt. Students can write a message of their choosing on the shirt, and then the shirt becomes part of the university’s annual display.

“There’s different colors for different types of interpersonal violence,” Patterson explained. “Students are encouraged to come [and] pick up a shirt, whatever color feels meaningful to them for whatever reason… whether they have been personally impacted by that type of violence, or they know someone who has, or they just want to become an activist.”

Shirts made this year as part of the Clothesline Project will mostly be displayed in the Russell Union, and some will be in the library as well, according to Patterson. Shirts made in past years will be displayed in other locations, including above the Pedestrium.

In addition to the usual displays inside the Russell Union and the RAC, this year’s Clothesline Project will feature a display inside the library.

“The library is doing a very big display this year, so essentially it’s larger and going to be more visible than it had been in the past, so I think that’s really great,” Gemma Skuraton, director of student wellness and health promotion, said.

“We have a lot of them,” Patterson said. “In fact, we’re about to loan some out to Fort Benning in West Georgia so that they can have a display because we have so many that then we can help other people start their displays, which is kinda cool.”

The Clothesline Project began in Massachusetts in 1990. Since then, universities around the country have joined in with their own displays.

Each year, the GS Sexual Assault Response Team plans the programming for the week, along with providing education on sexual violence and its related topics, such as healthy relationships, consent and bystander intervention.

Lauren Patterson, the chair of the GS Sexual Assault Response Team, said that the Sexual Assault Response Team has three main goals for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

“One, we want to raise awareness about sexual violence,” Patterson said. “Two, we want to provide some education to students about what they can do, how they can get involved and how they can be activists to help reduce the incidents of sexual violence. The third thing is we hope that it will be uplifting to survivors… and that they will feel supported.”

Other events

The RAD basic self defense course will be offered Monday, Feb. 24, through Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Office of Public Safety for students, faculty and staff who identify as female.

It is encouraged to register ahead of time if you would like to participate in the course. A registration link can be found on the Sexual Assault Response Team website.

“We do encourage you to at least commit to come in for the first two days,” Patterson said. “The third day is optional.”

The third day of the course is when participants are able to simulate what they learned during the first two days.

Also on Monday, Feb. 24, the GS Wellness Ambassadors will have a Healthy Relationships Health Hut set up in Henderson Library from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. They will provide education about what makes a healthy relationship.

The Wellness Ambassadors are part of the Student Wellness and Health Promotion Office, which officially began operation as its own office in January.

“I think that sends a really good message to campus about how administration values a culture of wellness and violence prevention,” Skuraton said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Survivor Love Letters event will take place in the Russell Union from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Students can come write letters to survivors of sexual violence to be supportive, provide some words of encouragement to them,” Patterson said.

Another event organized by Health Services during the week will be the Next Steps Booth on Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Russell Union Rotunda.

The Next Steps Booth will provide information to students regarding bystander intervention and how they can play a role in preventing future incidents of sexual violence from occurring.

All of the events of the week will lead up to the Take Back the Night march and End the Violence rally on Thursday night.

The Take Back the Night march will begin at 7 p.m. at the bus stop in front of the University Store. Long sleeve T-shirts will be given out to students who arrive for the march as long as supplies last. Patterson recommends that students arrive early to have a better chance of getting a shirt.

The march will travel through Eagle Village and Centennial Place before ending up at the Rotunda, where the End the Violence rally will be held following the end of the march.

The GS Sexual Assault Student Educators will begin the rally, which also includes a candlelight vigil, with a brief program, according to Patterson. Their program will be followed by an open mic opportunity for anyone to talk about ways that they have been impacted by sexual violence.

“It’s a really powerful event,” Patterson said. “It’s a good time to practice being an activist on campus. We do chants and things as we’re marching, and then the rally is always really moving and uplifting.”

On Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the counseling center will host its Restorative Retreat, which requires prior registration.

“It’s a day to kind of rejuvenate, in case anyone has found the week to be a little bit more challenging because it’s sometimes really hard to talk about sexual assault,” Patterson said.

The retreat will include yoga, meditation and other wellness-related events.

Throughout the week, information will be provided about future related events, such as the Teal Ribbon Run in March and Walk A Mile In Her Shoes in April.

Abby Fuller, The George-Anne News Reporter,