Counseling Outreach Peer Education (COPE), a student organization that promotes mental health awareness, held a t-shirt decorating event on the University of Miami’s Foote Green from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m on Wednesday to honor survivors of gender-based violence.
The shirts, hung on clotheslines on each side of ‘The U’ statue on campus, displayed messages such as “you are not alone,” “you are strong” and “you can survive anything.”
The event was held as part of this year’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Students were given the opportunity to donate t-shirts with handwritten messages relating to gender violence.
Visual artist Rachel Carey-Harper says the event allowed women to share their stories by raising awareness and letting victims of gender-based violence know that they are not alone.
The color of each t-shirt corresponded to a different type of violence. White shirts were used to represent women who have died of violence; yellow and beige for women who have been battered or assaulted; red, pink and orange for women who have survived rape and sexual assault; blue and green for surviving incest; purple and lavender for women attacked because of their sexual orientation and black for women who have faced political abuse.
According to Kimberly Martin, assistant director of outreach services for the counseling center and the head advisor for COPE, UM has held this event for the past nine years in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Resource Team. However, they were unable to host it last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were sad to not have it last year,” Martin said. “This event is a wonderful way to bring awareness to the topic of gender-based violence. It is a way to amplify voices of survivors and allow space for them to feel supported and empowered.”
The event is also a means for student advocates involved with COPE to share resources with peers who have been impacted by gender-based violence. According to Martin, COPE members are trained to support survivors of all types of violence and share their resources with other students in dialogues facilitated by a counseling center clinician.
“I hope people walk away with more awareness of the situation, with more empathy for people that are going through this stuff,” Christian Weiman, one of the social media chairs on COPE’s executive board, said. “It’s usually behind the curtains, people don’t like to talk about domestic violence or sexual assault. So it’s something really important that I think needs to be brought about to the frontline on-campus.”
Students in need of support are encouraged to reach out to the university counseling center. To report gender-based violence, students can fill out an outreach request form on the counseling center’s website. Students can also follow COPE’s social media in order to stay up to date on upcoming events and the resources available to them.
“This event is meant to be the beginning of continued conversations,” Martin said. “Conversations that allow space for support, understanding and education. We’re here to help facilitate any of these conversations.”