ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- Students who created a display to raise awareness about sexual and domestic abuse were outraged and frightened when they discovered someone vandalized the project, including setting portions of it on fire.
The vandalism happened sometime the night of Wednesday, Oct. 25, on the quad of the Augustana College campus.
"To have something a violent act against something like this which is denouncing violence and supporting survivors who had to deal with violence with their own lives is extremely disturbing," said senior Jamie Mclean.
Every year the clothespin project is put on by Augustana's Women's Gender Studies program. It's is aimed to give a voice to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
Augustana students made the shirts to show support for victims or to speak out about their own experiences with assault. Those shirts were then hung on a rope pinned with clothespins.
"A lot of people are angry a lot of people are really upset and hurt," Mclean said, regarding the vandalism.
What was supposed to be considered a safe space, turned into something more violent, she said.
"It felt very blatantly obvious that it was supposed to be an act of violence... that was meant to intimidate and cause fear," said Augustana student and project volunteer, Rachael Meadors.
"We’re living with this person we’re going to school with this person and if it is someone who came off of campus and did it it’s still a violent message," Mclean added.
Both Meadors and Mclean say the act came as a surprise because the school provides inclusive programs involving support for those affected by sexual abuse.
"This is an act that we’re taking very seriously and that we’re are going to work our hardest to see if we can find the people who did this," said Keri Rursch, media relations for Augustana College.
Rursch says the school is working with Rock Island Police and investigating on who is behind it.
Students say the damage done won't silence them and will keep striving to keep their message alive.
"I think a lot of us are very firm in that we will not remain silent and that this is just emboldening us more to stay resilient and keep talking about it," said Meadors.