“I hate you!!! You and your sons will rot in hell for abusing my body. My life. You knew what you were doing. I was a scared little girl. I wish I could have killed you!”
More than 100 T-shirts bearing hard-to-read testimonials by Lorain County sexual assault survivors hung in mid-April at the Oberlin College Science Center and at the Conservatory of Music.
Part of the Nord Center’s Traveling Clothesline Project, they were created as a way for those victims to share their stories — histories of violence and the scars left behind.
The raw truth of the words is enough to make you sob in frustration. They tell how hopeless and powerless the victims were made to feel by their abusers.
The rainbow display of shirts is color-coded: Red is for sexual abuse, yellow is for physical abuse, green is for childhood sexual abuse, purple for hate crimes, blue for incest, and gray for abuse against the mentally impaired.
Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, which runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.
Each year, the number of victims is around 321,500 age 12 and older, RAINN reports. The majority are under age 30, with 15 percent in the 12 to 17 age range.
One in six American women has been victimized by an attempted or completed rape, the group says. Among children, 82 percent of victims are girls; among adults, 90 percent of victims are women.
Women ages 18 to 24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
Men in the same age range who are college students are five times more likely than non-students to be victimized. About three percent of American men — that’s one in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
The danger skyrockets among transgender college students. Twenty-one percent of transgender or non-binary students have been sexually assaulted.
Those who have lived through the hell of abuse must then also cope with increased rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Ninety-four percent of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the two weeks afterward, and 33 percent of women who are raped think about taking their own lives.
Thirteen percent do try to kill themselves.
Survivors are six times more likely to use cocaine and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs, according to RAINN.
The Clothesline Project was on display through April at Lorain County Community College, Oberlin College, the Nord Center in Lorain, and Amherst Steele High School.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.