This month college students are back to school. According to the National Institute of Justice, 1 out of 5 women are victims of sexually violent crimes. NIJ studies estimate 3% of all college women become victims of rape or attempted rape in any academic year. This statistic translates to 35 sexual assaults to every 1000 females students or 350 in schools with attendance of 10,000. In just one school year. These stats are just the ones who report. Many rape crisis centers and hotlines realize that many more students do not report. Embarrassment, fear of reprisals by school administrators and myths held by society all play key roles in victims keeping silent. Add to this that 85 or more percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows and nearly half occurred on a date.
Art Therapy can be incorporated into prevention and response on college campuses. The Clothesline Project was started in the 1980s in Massachusetts as a way to “air out dirty laundry” in the form of art by drawing pictures, designs, or writing words of poetry or prose. T-shirts are made anonymously by anyone who has been affected by sexual assault, including victims, friends and family, and assailants. Many college campuses either hold Clothes Line projects or collaborate with rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters to hold community projects.
The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance has collaborated with students from the Virginia Commonwealth University to create the Red Flag Campaign. This poster campaign is designed to raise awareness about red flags in dating relationships.
The Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA) and the Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence (RCDV) in collaboration with Student Anti-Violence Educators (SAVE) at the University of Mary Washington have utilized the Red Flag campaign on campus. Art Therapists at RCASA have worked with SAVE and UMW to create art on campus in response to sexual violence to educate, create awareness and create response.
Community Art Therapy can be a wonderful way to connect community action agencies with schools and members of the community to create art centered awareness campaigns to raise awareness about violence.
Carol Olson, LPC, ATR-BC – Executive and Clinical Director of the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault.