Fordham’s Committee on Sexual Assault Hosts Week of Action

Fordham+CSM+hosts+the+Clothesline+Project+each+semester+to+express+solidarity+with+victims+of+sexual+assault.+%28Courtesy+of+Instagram%29

Fordham CSM hosts the Clothesline Project each semester to express solidarity with victims of sexual assault. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Sarah Huffman, News Editor Emerita

The Committee on Sexual Misconduct (CSM) hosted its semesterly Week of Action from March 29 through April 2. This semester’s programming consisted of five events held throughout the week that brought attention to sexual assault and created a space for survivors. 

The first event of the week was The Clothesline Project, an event where survivors and those supporting survivors can write messages related to sexual assault on t-shirts. The t-shirts were hung on the fence around Edward’s Parade for the entire week for passersby to look at. This semester, people were able to get involved virtually by submitting messages of support to CSM’s Instagram

Lindsey Sullivan, FCRH ’21, chairperson of CSM and United Student Government (USG) vice president of Health and Security, said CSM holds The Clothesline Project every semester because it’s a visible and accessible event. 

“We think it’s a great way for Fordham to show its support for survivors of sexual assault and also for survivors to have a chance to reclaim their voice and their power,” she said. 

Another event CSM does every year is a Speakout Against Sexual Assault with Women’s Empowerment. While this event is normally held as an open mic event in Rodrigue’s Coffee House, this year it took place on Walsh Library lawn. Alex Shaw, FCRH ’21, vice chair of CSM, said attendees sat in a circle and shared their experiences, creating an intimate healing circle. 

Women’s Empowerment said this year’s format was more like a discussion but still fostered a safe, confidential environment for survivors to share their stories. 

“We greatly appreciate the work CSM does to support survivors and to combat sexual misconduct on campus, and we were so happy to be able to hold it during Week of Action,” said Reilly Dunne, general coordinator for Women’s Empowerment. “Every speakout has been a very cathartic experience for me and it is so incredible to witness the strength and vulnerability of survivors.” 

This semester’s keynote Speaker for Week of Action was Marlee Liss, an embodiment coach and restorative justice advocate. Sullivan said CSM has never brought it a guest speaker like Liss before since they usually collaborate with other clubs and organizations. 

Sullivan said Liss is the first person in North America who decided to go through a restorative justice program through the court system after she was sexually assaulted. Restorative justice focuses on making sure the offender understands the impact of their crime. 

“It’s a way of giving justice back to the people who were victims through the people who perpetuated the crime, understanding their crime, learning from it and understanding the harm that they’ve caused,” said Shaw. 

She said restorative justice is a community-focused process and Liss explained that it was a very healing process for her to hear her rapist take accountability for what he did so she could focus on herself and move on.

Sullivan said they wanted to bring her onto campus to provide a different perspective and bring restorative justice into the conversation. 

“She has a really powerful story that centers on listening to survivors, focusing on survivor healing,” said Sullivan. 

Shaw said they got a really good turnout for the event and that people were very receptive to Liss’ story and her message. 

Thursday’s event was a conversation with the Bronx district attorney’s office that bounced off of Liss’ talk about restorative justice and community-based healing. Shaw said they talked about holding each other accountable and how to give space for people to learn from their mistakes. She said it was about centering survivors and healing as well. 

“Her focus was on minor harms that we do every single day in our interactions with each other and how to recognize if we hurt someone else and how to take accountability for it and how to use it as a way to grow and learn,” said Sullivan. 

The last event was a collaboration with ASILI called the Intersection Between Black Women and Sexual Violence. Shaw and Priyanka Koshy, FCRH ’23, chair of CSM’s subcommittee for diversity, had a conversation on Instagram live about the intersection of sexual assault and race. 

Koshy said the goal of the event was to have an open dialogue that did not shy away from difficult topics, such as race, sexuality and sexual violence. Koshy said she asked Shaw questions about Black women survivors and the unique challenges they face, adding in her own perspective. 

“I believe in the importance of incorporating diversity in the conversation surrounding sexual violence,” said Koshy. “I am so glad to work alongside a group of people who care about diversity initiatives and developing events such as this which spread awareness on it. I believe the only way for us to bring about change as a student body is to encourage students to partake in respectful but meaningful conversations, which was reflected well in CSM’s collaboration with ASILI.”

Shaw said she hoped that people took away a revived sense of wanting to be an active bystander and that it helped people think about healing. She said the week’s events felt very cohesive and thematic in that sense. 

“It was mostly about healing. I felt like it was a very survivor-focused week in that we talked about how to heal as a survivor and the different ways that that can look,” said Shaw. “I don’t think that we really always talk about healing. We never really talk about the aftermath and how survivors can heal from it, so I hope that they took that away from this week.” 

Sullivan said even if they only reach one person through Week of Action, then they are doing their job right. 

Anyone facing difficulties regarding sexual assault or sexual misconduct can text Fordham’s CARE Connect number at 718-817-2273 or reach out to CSM.