nwasaAccusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault lead the headlines these days, but at Saint Viator, efforts to raise awareness of sexual and domestic violence, as well as teen dating violence and personal body awareness, have been going on for years.

A prevention educator from the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault, Jessica Caccavallo, just spent two days presenting to sophomores in health class. Someone from the Arlington Heights-based agency has returned to Saint Viator every semester, as well as during summer school, for each of the last 10 years.

Their calling cards are the T-shirts displayed either on a clothesline or as in the case of her most recent visit, on seats in the auditorium. The shirts bear witness to survivors of violence.

“The shirts tell the victim’s story,” says Ms. Lisa Wilson, health teacher.

In fact, the Clothesline Project started in the 1990s on the East coast as a way for survivors of violence to share their stories and the stories of others whom they know have endured violence. The shirts bare witness to the violence that silently plagues communities, and allows for students and the community to begin to have a conversation about sexual violence, domestic violence, and harassment and learn the impacts these traumas have on an individual.

Each color carries a significance: Red, pink and orange represent survivors of rape and sexual assault. Blue or green is for survivors of incest and sexual abuse. Purple or lavender represents women attacked for their sexual orientation. Black and gray shirts signify emotional/verbal/mental abuse or more than one type of violence.

Caccavallo displayed 75 T-shirts and all were created over the last few years by high school teens in the Northwest suburbs.

“When students find that out, it definitely hits home,” Caccavallo says. “It’s not just some celebrity or politician on TV, it’s happening right here, to people their age.”

Caccavallo provides prevention education to students of all ages, from preschool through college, but at Saint Viator, she had the rare opportunity to pray with students for the survivors.

During each period, Caccavallo talked about what consent is, as well as bystander intervention and what to do if they know someone who has been assaulted. She also gives them resources for help, including the 24-hour hotline crisis intervention- 888-802-8890.

“The presentation helps address social norms and what students think about gender roles,” Caccavallo says. “Hopefully, it makes them more sensitive to the issues and they get a bigger picture of rape and assault, and that nobody is immune from being a victim.”

To find out more about services provided by the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault, visit: http://www.nwcasa.org/services, or visit their Facebook page, at: https://www.facebook.com/NorthwestCASA.