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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Ray Lloyd
  • 107th Airlift Wing
Members of the 914th and 107th Airlift Wing's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Team hosted a lunch, learn and creativity event in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The event was facilitated by Brande Newsome, 914th Airlift Wing SARC, and Nancy Deganis, Counselor, Buffalo Vet Center. Members participated in a discussion about trauma and sexual assault followed by a clothesline project. The clothesline project is one that takes place around the nation to rally ally's to support bringing an end to domestic violence and sexual assault. Participants decorate items such as articles of clothing with anti-domestic violence and sexual assault messages. This clothesline is then displayed during various events to reinforce the message of bringing an end to violence in homes and other intimate settings.

The history is as follows: According to the Men's Rape Prevention Project in Washington DC, 58,000 soldiers died in the Vietnam War. During that same period of time, almost 51,000 women were killed by men who supposedly loved them. This startling statistic became the catalyst for a coalition of women's groups to develop a program that would educate and break the silence to the issue of violence against women.

Many of the women in this group had experienced some form of personal violence and wanted to find a unique way to turn this statistic into a powerful educational and healing tool.

One of the women, visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper, inspired by the power of the AIDS quilt, presented the concept of using shirts, hanging on a clothesline, as the way to raise awareness about violence against women. Doing the laundry was always considered women's work and in the days of close-knit neighborhoods women often exchanged information over backyard fences while hanging their clothes out to dry. The clothesline project was born.

Each woman could tell her story in her own individual way, using words and/or artwork to decorate her shirt. She could hang her shirt on the clothesline when she was finished. This very action serves many purposes. It becomes an educational tool for those who come to view the clothesline; it is a healing tool for anyone who creates a shirt; hanging the shirt on the line allows survivors, friends and family to literally turn their back on some of the pain of their experience and walk away; lastly, it lets those who are still suffering in silence understand that they are not alone.