The Solidarity Wall
Contributed by Gary McLain
It’s called the Solidarity Wall. “The point is to allow students to openly express healing words of encouragement to victims of sexual assault and outrage against the perpetrators,” says Ty Gibson, co-director of Light Bearers and lead pastor of Storyline Church in Eugene.
Light Bearers runs a discipleship school called ARISE, led by a group of educators who are passionate about Jesus and want to equip others for everyday ministry. ARISE interns constructed a large wall, covered it with a surface upon which messages could be written, and placed it in a prominent spot on the University of Oregon (U of O) campus in Eugene.
A love letter, sealed with a solidarity seal, was distributed on campus the week of April 18-22. As the interns gave each letter away, they invited students to visit the wall and write their messages to survivors of sexual assault. Testimonies were given and spoken-word poetry was performed at the wall during the week.
One in five females on university campuses across the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and many young men are sexually violated as well. In 85 percent of the incidents, there are no repercussions for the offenders.
The Solidarity Wall project is getting massive attention, not only on the U of O campus but also at Princeton University and universities abroad. Some girls responded by bursting into tears and telling their stories about being violated. Young men were also encouraged to be more willing to intervene in situations where a young woman might be threatened.
“The reasoning we call it ‘The Solidarity Wall’ is that the language is broad enough that walls can be installed on other campuses to promote awareness on a number of different social justice issues,” explains Gibson. “This creates a medium in which anyone can have a voice on various crucial issues. Violated individuals can encounter beautiful encouragement from the community, and potential violators can [come away] with a sense of conviction that they are being watched and that their actions are repulsive."