Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Military sexual assault victims in San Diego are breaking their silence using a clothesline display of painted t-shirts
The Veterans Affairs Administration estimates one in five women and one in 100 men experience sexual assault or harassment while serving in the military.
To help raise awareness, the San Diego VA is inviting veterans to decorate T-shirts to reflect their experiences of sexual trauma and recovery.
Aundrea Harney was gang-raped in 1966 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. She tearfully recalled how the rape led to an abortion and decades of alcohol abuse.
“I have hidden it all my life. I was 64 before I was able to talk about it, so it basically destroyed my life," said Harney.
Dozens of T-shirts lined the room in the San Diego VA Medical Center. One read, "The scars that only we can feel are the hardest to heal," another read "Lifetime of Hurt."
Carolyn Allard, director of the San Diego VA’s Military Sexual Trauma Clinic, said she hopes the project reaches victims who are suffering in silence.
“If we can send the message to even one survivor, that what happened to them doesn’t define them, and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with them, then I’ll be happy," said Allard.
The Clothesline Project will be on display at the San Diego VA Medical Center through tomorrow.