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Old 04-09-2008, 05:24 PM   #1
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"I Was Raped" T Shirt

NY Times

April 4, 2008


Rape Worn Not on a Sleeve, but Right Over the Heart

By SUSAN DOMINUS

“Raped.”

The single word emblazoned on the T-shirt didn’t have an exclamation point at the end of it, but it didn’t need to: It looked as if it had been spray-painted in big, black letters against the backdrop of the white shirt.

Jennifer Baumgardner, a 37-year-old writer and feminist activist based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, held the T-shirt up in a Midtown restaurant earlier this week and looked at it skeptically. “Totally harsh,” she said. “Shocking.”

That T-shirt was one of a few that Ms. Baumgardner had considered, and rejected, as a key component of a multimedia rape awareness project she has initiated. She wouldn’t be wearing the T-shirt herself — she has never been the victim of a sexual assault — but she planned to distribute it, at the college campuses where she frequently speaks and through a sex education Web site called Scarleteen.com.

Three years ago, Ms. Baumgardner earned some notoriety and also some high-profile support for a T-shirt she distributed that said, in simple block letters, “I had an abortion.” Gloria Steinem, the indie rock star Ani DiFranco, and the feminist lawyer and political commentator Susan Estrich wore the T-shirt in public venues; the Planned Parenthood Federation of America sold hundreds in a matter of days, but didn’t renew the order when it sold out (the shirt was highly controversial among affiliate chapters).

Abortion and rape are subjects that are secreted away and are also surprisingly common, Ms. Baumgardner said. One in six women is a victim of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a nonprofit sexual assault prevention and education group. According to the Department of Justice, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

As she has been interviewing women for a film she is making about sexual assault, Ms. Baumgardner has heard women describing the usual reasons why they frequently don’t report rapes — shame, humiliation, fear that they wouldn’t be believed, or that they themselves had somehow provoked the attack. “By having an object like this” — a simple T-shirt — “that’s so mundane, it sort of forces it into everyday conversation,” Ms. Baumgardner said.

Eliminating the hushed tones that surround the subject might help more women talk about their experience (and possibly seek prosecution of their attackers), she said. But she also believes that for some sexual assault victims, the shirt’s impact may have more to do with their own reaction to it than with what they fear from total strangers.

“So many people who’ve been raped tend to doubt the experience,” she said. “I do think it’s often empowering for women and men to own that experience and divest themselves of some of the shame and secrecy of it — and realize that they’re not the ones that should be ashamed,” she said.

The design of the T-shirt for her project proved more challenging than the one for abortion. If the abortion T-shirt was a bold affirmation of choice, this one would be just the opposite — a public statement of victimhood. Could that ever be empowering?

She pulled out another T-shirt that she felt provided the more necessary context. The pale pink shirt showed a safe with its door open. Sitting inside the safe was a small note that said, in simple handwriting, “I was raped.”

The image doesn’t shock; it’s more like an extended metaphor, with a declaration hidden within. “The wearer isn’t advertising that he or she was raped,” Ms. Baumgardner said, “but rather opening up to you, the viewer, and also saying that this is a small part of who he or she is.”

On Tuesday, Christen Clifford, a 36-year-old actress and writer whom Ms. Baumgardner interviewed for her film, volunteered to wear the shirt in public. A firm believer in addressing taboos — her one-woman show, “BabyLove,” addresses maternal sexuality — Ms. Clifford was interested in gauging the response the shirt would generate, both her own and the public’s.

Sitting in a West Village coffee shop, wearing the shirt, Ms. Clifford described her own experience with rape. She was 15 when she was attacked by a man in his early twenties. A tall, long-limbed woman, she folded her arms across her chest as she spoke; she all but huddled over the tiny table. The waitress took no notice of the shirt; the woman sitting inches away with whom she’d briefly chatted about a free chair was equally oblivious.

Still, as Ms. Clifford walked out the door, intending to wear the T-shirt to pick up her preschooler around the corner, it was easy to worry on her behalf about the other mothers’ reactions. Would they assume her son’s mother was deeply damaged, not just by the information displayed on the shirt, but by her choice to announce it on a pale pink T-shirt?

That kind of judgment turned out not to be what Ms. Clifford most feared — she was tired of worrying about other people’s assessment of her as a victim. “There really are so few spaces where it’s considered appropriate to talk about it,” said Ms. Clifford, recalling a dinner party where her experience came up inadvertently and brought all conversation to an uncomfortable halt.

What she most feared, she said, was wearing the shirt past a group of young men. “I’d be afraid that it would invite the same derision and hostility that I associate with the rape,” she said. The freshness of that fear surprised her, and that insight alone, she said, made the experience worthwhile.

Ms. Baumgardner thinks the shirts will most likely be worn at some of the Take Back the Night rallies that will be happening on campuses around the country this month. (April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.) But beyond that, she says, she has no preconceived notions about the way the T-shirts should be worn, or not worn, in the general public. “People I know who support me in general have told me they are really grossed out by the T-shirt,” she said. “But there’s no shortage of people reaching out to me.”

If her project starts a conversation, it won’t be a quiet one, which is just what Ms. Baumgardner wants.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:26 PM   #2
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KATU.com



SEATTLE -- You just might run into someone wearing a T-shirt that states: "I was raped."

The phrase is printed across a new shirt sold online from a Seattle-based organization founded by a local rape survivor.

Heather Corrina's Web site Scarleteen.com offers teens "sex ed for the real world." The site offers detailed information on a wide array of topics having to do with sexuality in an attempt to educate teens and young adults and to encourage open, ongoing conversation.

The T-shirt campaign is a part of the "I was raped" project, which also includes a documentary. The project, for which Corrina teamed up with feminist writer Jennifer Baumgardner, aims to highlight the prevalence of rape and to help victims break their silence.

Corrina says when she was raped years ago, she didn't even understand exactly what had happened.

"And to even have had that language, to know what to call it or to know it had happened to somebody else would have made a tremendous difference for me in terms of not feeling like it was something I should be ashamed of," she said.

She hopes the site and the T-shirt will let other rape victims know they are not alone.

"I suspect that there might be a day I wear that T-shirt on the bus where a woman next to me, who I have never met before, says 'I was, too,'" she wrote in a statement on her Web site.

But Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault, isn't so sure that's all that will happen.

"You have to think about the consequences, and it's not likely to happen that you've got everyone who's been raped wearing a T-shirt saying 'I've been raped,' " she said.

Berliner hesitated to say victims should wear their pain on their sleeve. The T-shirt, she said, fills her head with questions.

"What is this person looking for? Are they trying to get a reaction? Are they trying to see what I think?" she said.

When asked why she chose such a strong message, Corrina said it's more for the benefit of the person wearing the shirt rather than for those who see it.

"Because we think there are a lot of women who need it," she said. "It's certainly not for everybody. Everybody's feelings processes a little bit different."

Corrina admits that such a heavy message carries the possibility of backfiring.

"Oh, I think absolutely," she said. "You could wear this and be met with scorn and embarrassment."

That's what Berliner fears. Experts say rape victims may think they're ready to make a bold statement until they don't get the reaction they were hoping for.

Even if a rape victim wears the shirt for her own personal benefit, she will inevitably have to face the reactions to its strong message. Experts say the wrong reaction can scar the victim in devastating ways for years and years.

"So while I agree with the idea behind it, I would worry about whether someone was ready to take what came with it," she said. "It's definitely going to open up conversation."
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:28 PM   #3
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Wow. I'm going to step back for a minute and reflect on this one.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:38 PM   #4
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Which example would I rather survive?

A. being locked up in a basement for 6 months and beat daily, for 6 months, but never sexually assaulted

or

B. being sexually assaulted (Raped) for 2 minutes
with no permanent physical damage
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:40 PM   #5
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I do believe it's an empowering thing for some to own these kinds of experiences. But I have to wonder if this could also be a target for certain predators...
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:40 PM   #6
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No permanent physical damage is irrelevant. Personally I'd rather survive A .
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:41 PM   #7
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It's a valid form of expression whether the statement is true or not.

However, one has to ask whether wearing a t-shirt declaring 'I was raped' when the statement is untrue generates prejudice and hatred against men.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:44 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
No permanent physical damage is irrelevant. Personally I'd rather survive A .
I respect your feelings

each victim is 100 % innocent and blameless

I think I would much rather survive B


6 months is a long time to be tortured
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:46 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
But I have to wonder if this could also be a target for certain predators...
Maybe part of the point of the tshirt is to own control over that. You're a target anyway no matter what you wear. And the predator is responsible no matter what you wear. It's empowering for some women to show that "declaration hidden within" like it says in the article. Sometimes it gets so painful to keep it within, in many ways.

Every woman is different and the t-shirt is not for every woman.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep


I respect your feelings

each victim is 100 % innocent and blameless

I think I would much rather survive B


6 months is a long time to be tortured


i have to concur.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep

6 months is a long time to be tortured
But the emotional torture of surviving the "two minutes" or much longer can be just as brutal as the six months could ever be. Maybe even more so. There is no time limit on that.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen


Maybe part of the point of the tshirt is to own control over that. You're a target anyway no matter what you wear. And the predator is responsible no matter what you wear. It's empowering for some women to show that "declaration hidden within" like it says in the article. Sometimes it gets so painful to keep it within, in many ways.

Every woman is different and the t-shirt is not for every woman.
What is your view on whether these t-shirts might increase false claims of rape against men, a growing problem which has led to the ruination of many men against whom false accusations have been made? In many cases, the women making the accusations get off scot free.

Someone wearing such a t-shirt where the statement made is untrue could well be likely to make such a false claim.
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
One in six women is a victim of sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a nonprofit sexual assault prevention and education group. According to the Department of Justice, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

We have 150,000,000+ females in America.

So 25,000.000+ are victims.

They are all blameless.

Why is there any more shame than there is for a person that was stabbed 5 times with a knife and lives.

A knife penetrating is not as bad?
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Old 04-09-2008, 05:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
But the emotional torture of surviving the "two minutes" or much longer can be just as brutal as the six months could ever be. Maybe even more so. There is no time limit on that.
Is that real
or the victims choosing?
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Old 04-09-2008, 06:00 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by financeguy


What is your view on whether these t-shirts might increase false claims of rape against men, a growing problem which has led to the ruination of many men against whom false accusations have been made? In many cases, the women making the accusations get off scot free.

Someone wearing such a t-shirt where the statement made is untrue could well be likely to make such a false claim.
I do not approve at all of false accusations, but I don't see how this t-shirt could increase false claims of rape. If you're going to make such a false claim your motivations go way beyond a t-shirt making you do it or creating any sort of environment in which that is more probable.
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