College Event Brings Awareness to Victims of Sexual and Domestic Violence

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

HARRISONBURG -- Sexual abuse and domestic violence victims wrote about what they've experienced and those experiences were displayed on T-shirts at James Madison University.

The shirts from people providing support for the victims were also displayed.

Among the silence in the crowd, you could hear symbolic sounds, showing how often a woman is battered or raped.

“It's so present in our lives, but we like to ignore it,” said Gabriela Vargas, a person at the event.

As Vargas left the display, she said it wasn't easy walking around.

"I was scared because it's heavy material.”

Through the Clothesline Project onlookers could see it. Seven hundred shirts hung in a room with one thing in common: messages about sexual assault and domestic violence.

“It was all around the room and I was like, 'Wow it happens to that many people.' It was shocking.”

Michael Johnson, another participant in the event, said it was a difficult experience. One of his friends, who he keeps in touch with, was sexually abused as a kid.

“You see a message that hits really close to home. It's just a very deep thing,” he said.

He could also see his friend was not alone.

"The fact that it can happen to men and does. It's a little bit more unspoken."

Candy Phillips helps victims with the group First Step and she said sexual abuse and domestic violence is common across many different groups of people.

“You can be younger. You can be older. You can be married. You can be in a dating relationship,” she said.

She said it usually happens more often to women, but men are victims too.

“They're being hit, being hurt. There's broken bones. There's bruises. There's also verbal abuse, being put down, being told that you're crazy or that you're worthless.”

Phillips said ways to prevent sexual abuse are always hanging out in groups and looking out for each other.

The event will continue Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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