This week is Sexual Violence Awareness Week (SVAW) on the Goshen College campus. Led by different members of Goshen Student Women’s Association (GSWA), an event has been held each day of the week to raise awareness, spark conversation and show solidarity in regards to sexual violence.
On Monday night, students worked to set up the Clothesline Project in Schrock Plaza. This project, which has been set up in years past on GC’s campus, allows students to “air out their dirty laundry.” Originally started in 1990 to address the issue of violence against women, the project provides a space for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt and hanging it on a clothesline.
This year, Mimi Salvador, a senior, brought a new project to campus. The Red Dress Project was created to raise awareness about the many missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada by hanging a single red dress on a clothesline. This was set up and taken down alongside the clothesline project.
“I’ve really loved the work the students have put into this week,” said Beth Martin Birky, professor of English and women and gender studies. “They’ve worked hard to bring back events we’ve held in the past, as a well as bring new ideas, such as the Red Dress Project, to campus.”
Both the Clothesline Project and the Red Dress Project were taken down Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday, Erin Bergen, a junior, led a PIN training with about 25 students in attendance. “It was a conversation that I set up with two experts on sexual assault specifically in the Mennonite church,” said Bergen. Students were able to hold this conversation with the experts over a live video chat.
“We spoke with the speakers about how we, as student activists, can work to change and improve Goshen College’s culture and policies around sexual violence,” said Marco Fraticelli, a junior.
Anya Slabaugh, a senior, led a Monologues writing workshop on Wednesday evening. It was an informal event that allowed space for students to think creatively and write pieces that could potentially be submitted to Goshen Monologues.
“[Goshen Monologues], in general, creates a platform for women and non-binary people to share stories that aren’t normally shared,” said Slabaugh. “The anonymity [of each piece] can be a really important thing. It helps women express not only difficult and hard things but also wonderful, beautiful things.”
With Goshen Monologues being performed in the spring, Slabaugh is hoping to have more stories from people all over campus with all sorts of backgrounds.
On Thursday, students were encouraged to wear purple and teal, the colors supporting survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Professors and administrators across campus were asked to pledge to donate a certain amount of money per student that showed up to class wearing either purple or teal. All proceeds will be donated to the Elkhart County Women’s Shelter.
“To me, this week is really important because it’s a way for us to recognize as an institution that sexual violence happens and it happens here at Goshen,” said Slabaugh. “It’s a way to acknowledge that hearing stories about sexual violence is difficult, but it’s really important for helping people who have experienced it to know they are in no way alone. As a community, we need to continue working to be better at supporting people.”
The activities held during Sexual Violence Awareness Week provide meaningful experiences for students, like Ellen Conrad, a senior.
“Sexual Violence Awareness Week has been so powerful over my four years at Goshen,” said Conrad. “It’s inspiring to see Goshen’s campus come together over such an important issue.”
The last event of the week, Take Back The Night, will take place on Friday in Newcomer 19 at 7:30 p.m. It started as a movement to help women feel comfortable walking around campuses at night. “It’s an intentional event that allows women to take back [campus] and feel empowered,” said Slabaugh. There will be a brief time of talking and reflection to start, which will be followed by a march around campus.