Campus Gender Groups Promote Sexual Awareness

Sexual Awareness Week has evolved and expanded since then; it is now centered around the Clothesline Project, a Five College project where students display on a clothesline “shirts that cover the number of people abused as kids, [the number of people] targeted by hate crimes, show the support of allies and allow people to speak out [about past physical abuse],” said Krull.

The collection of shirts contains more than 600 student-made pieces, a number which has increased due to the t-shirt making workshops that took place throughout the week. “The main goal is for people to not assume that there aren’t survivors among them.”

Peer Advocate (PA) Claire Sullivan ’11 tabled for the Clotheslines Project and agreed with Krull’s sentiment. “The project honors the stories of the t-shirts,” Sullivan said. “The project is very powerful. I liked putting [the shirts] up and taking the time to read them.”

Sexual Health Educator Andrea McEvoy ’11, who also tabled, said that displaying the t-shirts was both painful and beautiful. “The act of hanging up the shirts made me read them over and over again, knowing that every shirt represented one more victim,” McEvoy said. “It was shocking, and we never put up all the shirts [in the collection].”

McEvoy stressed that an important part of the Clothesline Project was to reach out to all demographics to induce positive change. “A lot of guys feel attacked, but there is a shirt that reads, ‘For every guy that committed sexual assault, there is always one who repairs it.’”

“Awareness is the key,” said McEvoy. “If you don’t know about it, there’s nothing you can do to help it.”

In addition to the Clothesline Project, PAs held new “Consent is Sexy” workshops for first-year students. The Multicultural Resource Center also sponsored a dialogue about sexual identity to enhance awareness regarding sexual health.

The first-year workshops included discussions on topics such as whether or not sexual consent was sexy and on personal experiences surrounding consent. The PAs defined consent as “risk management” and taught skills for communicating needs and desires in relationships. Students received t-shirts for creating personal definitions of consent.

In a similar manner, the Sexual Identity dialogue encouraged “ongoing conversations about how we try to put ourselves in others’ shoes so we can work towards creating more respect,” according to Krull. She also noted that there was a common factor among student’s concerns. “It was clear that despite explicit sexual images, people are still anxious about having heart-to-heart conversations with each other.”

This week, members of Pride Alliance and PAs also wrote inspirational messages in chalk on the paths to Valentine Dining Hall. Messages included “Keep your hands to yourself” and “You are beautiful.” Warren Knowles ’14, the chair of Pride Alliance, came up with this idea after seeing it used as an advocacy technique at other schools. “I hope that people will think about the messages,” said Knowles.

Sexual Awareness Week closed on a positive note, ending with a healing fire. Students gathered in Charles Drew House, accompanied by the Gospel Choir, Sabrinas and Bluestockings. Students wrote down their fears on pieces of paper, then threw them into the fire and spoke about the importance of positive support for sexual assault victims.

Araba Taylor ’13, a member of student group Women at Amherst, believes that the week will lead to positive change. “I think the most important part of the Sexual Awareness Week is just to create awareness and not let issues like this, that are important, be kept in the dark,” she stated. “Additionally, it gives those who have endured these situations or know those who have or just want to show their support a very important voice, if they choose to use it.”