‘It gives them a voice:’ Tri-Cities project aims to destigmatize conversations during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — If you head on over to libraries in Tri-Cities, you’ll find a display of decorated T-shirts right next to your normal rows of books.

But they’re not just any regular shirts. Instead, they’re covered with painted or drawn messages speaking out against sexual violence.

They’re part of Richland’s Support, Advocacy & Resource Center’s (SARC) annual “Clothesline Project.”

The project aims to combat social stigmas during April which is both National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Rosanna Herrera, SARC’s Program Director of Crisis Services and Prevention Support, said sexual assault survivors use the shirts as a therapeutic outlet.

“It gives them a voice,” Herrera said.

The purpose of the project is to start conversations about sexual violence in the community.

Some shirts read things like “I said stop,” “it’s not okay,” and “people shouldn’t hurt kids.” Others advocate for victims to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, adding, “you’re not alone.”

According to SARC officials, one out of every three girls and one out of every five boys will become a victim of assault. So, they’re hoping community members will “take a minute and just read the shirts.”

“It gives an opportunity for them to just get more information, bring awareness to sexual violence and let people know that I may not know your situation but I see you and I support you,” Herrera said.

The T-shirts will be on display from April 4 through April 15 at the Connell, Keewaydin, Kennewick, and Pasco branches of the Mid-Columbia Library, and at the Richland Public Library.

SARC is also working with multiple coffee shops in Tri-Cities to create consent-themed drinks available throughout the month.

“Our big goal is to raise that community awareness by first breaking that social stigma. Secondly, letting victims and survivors of sexual violence know, hey, the community hears you and we are here to support you. Lastly, just by letting them know that there are resources out in the community that is able to help them in the capacity,” said SARC Prevention Specialist Marisol Cervantes.

Drinks include:

  • The “S.A.A.M” drink for Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Shaka Cafe
  • “The Tea on Consent’ Blue Hawaiian at Teahaus
  • “No Means No” at S.U.B coffee shop
  • “But first, Consent” at The Coffee Crush

Officials are also asking you to participate in Denim Day on Wednesday, April 27 which combats the idea of clothing is consent.

“The longest-running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history, Denim Day asks community members and students to make a social statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the stigma, myths, and misconceptions that surround sexual violence,” a SARC poster reads.

For more information on the Clothesline Project, Denim Day, and other SARC events, click here.

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