Here are some facts*: Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Eighty percent of those people are under the age of 30. Fifty-four percent of those assaults are never reported to the police. And two-thirds of them are committed by people known to the victim.

I can remember clotheslines of t-shirts strung at Schrock Plaza in October since my freshman year at Goshen. That first year, I ignorantly thought it was just a really cool art project.

But the shirts symbolize a lot more than pieces of artwork: they’re a part of Goshen’s annual Sexual Violence Awareness Week, made by victims of sexual violence or by those who know victims personally. When I walked by yesterday, I was struck by the number of t-shirts hanging in the fall sun, on one college campus alone.

The country officially devotes April as Sexual Assault Awareness month but the college has been acknowledging this issue with events in October for a long time (find out how long).

We spread awareness by sending up candles in the dark, walking streets that wouldn’t otherwise be safe, learning alternate ways to defend ourselves and discussing as both men and women how we’ve been personally affected by sexual violence and ways in which to solve this issue. I think the week is a valuable one for everyone; discussion and awareness is the first movement towards change, towards shedding light on an issue that is often hushed up.

I would challenge all of us this week to keep in mind those who have been victims of sexual violence. Take time to read the shirts in the plaza and talk with other students. Look up, which works to increase awareness through art. Think of those both in our own community and around the world, both female and male, who are forced to be silent.

*taken from Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)