Solemn reflection, on the line

In a deliberate twist on tradition, UND begins ‘It’s on Us’ week of action with rally and march

Clothesline Project 2017

For the past 22 years, the Clothesline Project, as it’s known, has been a powerful staple on campus during these weeks of action, chock full of awareness activities and devoted to violence and sexual assault prevention. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

If there is a time of the year that the campus truly comes together as One UND, it’s this week.

As part of “It’s On Us Week” around the nation, UND is breaking the silence to stop domestic abuse, sexual assault and other forms of violence on its own campus with the annual Take Back the Night Rally and Clothesline Project, set up in Memorial Union.

Nearly 400 people filled the Memorial Union Ballroom, Monday night, to hear stories from survivors of violence as well as messages of hope for a safer tomorrow. The rally preceded a massive march around campus to show strength in unity.

Amber Flynn, UND Staff Senate president and sexual respect & violence prevention coordinator, co-hosted the event with Brittany Love, a prevention and education specialist with the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC), a symbolic gesture on its own, showing the close relationship between UND and the larger community when it comes to combatting abuse and violence.

“They do a lot of prevention work in the community and we at UND are a big part of the community,” Flynn said of the CVIC. “We definitely want to build on our relationshipship and collaborate as organizations.”

Starting big

Amber Flynn

Amber Flynn, UND’s sexual respect & violence prevention coordinator

Monday’s rally took place amid a vast sea of vibrantly decorated T-shirts and shawls, each depicting messages and symbolic illustrations of survivor experiences, victims lost and other past true-life acts of violence done unto someone. The shirts are hung on a series of clotheslined neatly strung throughout the ballroom.

For the past 22 years, the Clothesline Project, as it’s known, has been a powerful staple on campus during these weeks of action, chock full of awareness activities and devoted to violence and sexual assault prevention. In years past, however, the rally and march – probably the most visible parts — took place on Thursdays, well after the other activities had taken place.

Flynn said organizers shook things up a bit this year, launching with the signature events.

“We are essentially breaking the silence with this whole week,” Flynn said. “So, we thought, ‘why don’t we do the (rally and march) at the beginning instead of basically the end of the week.’ This way, it gives people a better chance to become aware of and take advantage of some of the other activities.”

Student support

Earlier in the day, UND President Mark Kennedy paid a visit to Clothesline Project to take in its powerful messages.

“I had the chance to walk among the clotheslines and read some of the powerful stories that are displayed on each article of clothing,” said Kennedy, who also attended the rally with First Lady Debbie Kennedy. “The exhibit is a sobering reminder that violence of all kinds still exists right here in North Dakota.”

Even more than the large crowd of participants at the rally and march, Flynn said he was impressed with the tide of students, estimated at more than 200, who helped set up this week’s scheduled events.

Stories of surviving

The rally kicked off, in earnest, with an emotional recollection by UND sophomore and pre-nursing major, Kelsey Cariveau, about growing up in an abusive home and the impact it had on her and her family. Cariveau is the most recent winner of the Dru Sjodin Memorial Scholarship, named for a UND student who was abducted from a Grand Forks mall parking lot, assaulted and eventually murdered in 2003.

“I was blaming myself for being born, said Cariveau at one point in her speech.

Cariveau was followed by 19-year-old Amanda Kiefer and her story of “surviving” alcholoh-fueled physical and mental abuse at home, bullying at school and sexual assault by an older man. Kiefer said the abuse eventually drove her to attempt suicide

“I was a freak and I wanted to die,” she said. “I had no one at home to talk to about problems at school and no one at school to talk to about problems at home.”

Eventually, Kiefer found the help she needed at the CVIC.

“Ever since my life changed for the better,” Keifer said.

Amber Flynn and Mark Kennedy

Flynn (left) gives UND President Mark Kennedy a tour of the Clothesline Project on Monday. The display is set up from 10 a.m. -7 p.m., all this week in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Image courtesy of Brandon Beyer/ UND President’s Office.

Peacemaker honored

The Varsity Gentlemen, a UND student a cappella group took the stage next, singing Lady Gaga’s Till it Happens to You, about a campus rape and its aftermath.

The arrangement was one the group had prepared especially for Monday’s rally and one they’d been working on since August.

“This is One UND at its best,” Kennedy said.

Flynn, too, found symbolism in the interwoven voices of the Varsity Gentlemen.

“It’s really all about the harmony of this entire institution and working together on these issues,” she said.

The rally concluded with the awarding of the CVIC Peacemaker Award to Haley Wamstad, a UND alumna and personal crimes district attorney in Grand Forks, for her work on some of the most “difficult cases” in the local court system. The award, given to a local citizen who demonstrates outstanding commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual abuse, was presented by Kristi Hall-Jiran, CVIC executive director.

Flynn stressed the strong bonds that exist between UND and the local CVIC as a key factor in helping to make this week of action a success on and off campus. She added, however, it’s a year-round relationship that goes much deeper.

A representative from the CVIC is actually co-located with Flynn as part of the Sexual Respect & Violence Prevention Office in the Memorial Union.

“It has been a really neat arrangement,” Flynn said. “Essentially, someone could come in to our office and get a better understanding of what kind of services we have to offer, and at the same time, we also have the CVIC, which can provide the confidential advocacy and support that they might need.”

It’s On Us Week schedule:

Today-Friday:

10 a.m.-7 p.m., Clothesline Project, Memorial Union Ballroom.

Wednesday:

11 a.m., Green Dot Training for the Faculty and Staff, Education Building, Room 109 (Register on the Learning & Development website).

Thursday:

10 a.m.-1 p.m., Take the Pledge, Wilkerson Commons.

2 p.m., Supporting Students and Co-workers after Sexual Violence, Badlands Room (Register on the Learning & Development website).

For more information and descriptions of each event, visit UND.edu/provost/diversity/its-on-us