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T-shirts raise awareness for gender problems

Sarah Mervosh | Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault, Student Government’s Gender Issues Committee handed out T-shirts to be worn today by 1,000 Notre Dame students.

Gender Issues paired the distribution of T-shirts with their attempt to pass a resolution to review the University’s sexual assault and rape policy, Gender Issues co-chairman and junior Patrick Tighe said.

The T-shirts, which are teal for the color of sexual assault awareness month, list the fact that one in four women are survivors of attempted sexual assault or rape, Tighe said.

The committee found the one in four statistic in multiple sources including duLac and the U.S. Department of Justice, he said.

“That’s why we are getting a thousand T-shirts – because there are roughly 4,000 undergraduate women here at Notre Dame,” said Gender Issues co-chairman Lauren Cummings.

“Just take the number of girls that you know and divide that by four,” she said. “It’s really an alarming number.”

The T-shirts are free to students who signed up to wear one, and were paid for by the Gender Issues committee. Each dorm had a sign-up sheet for the T-shirts and the committee targeted specific interest groups to wear them, Cummings said.

Both men and women have signed up to wear the T-shirts, and both Tighe and Cummings said there was a significant response from the male dorms to wear them.

“I think it’s going to say a lot to women that men are taking a stand and we’re saying that we don’t want to let this happen,” said Tighe, who added that men commit 90 to 95 percent of all rapes. “We’re the ones that are perpetrating it and we’re not going to let it happen again.”

Tighe said men don’t intend to be rapists, and emphasized that not all men are rapists, but that it is important to be aware of what defines rape and sexual assault, and to be aware of what it takes to avoid committing it.

In order to avoid it, men need to change their habits, “especially our drinking habits, the way we party, the way we view women. We really have to start changing our habits,” he said.

Tighe sees the men who choose to wear the shirt as “a sign of solidarity and a sign of accountability.”

“[A man wearing the shirt is saying,] ‘I’m wearing this shirt and you can hold me accountable and I will hold other men accountable,'” Tighe said.

The resolution that Gender Issues committee hopes to pass tonight will revise rape and sexual assault policies in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the policies and strengthen resources for victims. The resolution cites that of more than 3,000 students surveyed, 61 percent listed sexual assault/rape as one of their top three issues and 18 percent list it as their top issue.