I Was Raped: Wear Your Voice Out

t shirtWhy wear a shirt that says “I Was Raped”?

  • Because wearing it lets others know that they aren’t alone.
  • Because wearing it invites conversation about a silenced experience that so many women and men share.
  • Because rape is a crime that someone did to you, against your will.
  • Because, as Maya Angelou says, “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”
  • Because you shouldn’t be ashamed that you were raped; the perpetrator should be ashamed.
  • Because being public shatters the very silence that enables rape to be so common.
  • Because naming what has happened is the first step toward changing the reality of rape.
  • Because legal redress is rarely served, so it’s crucial to find our own justice and acknowledgment.

~ Jennifer Baumgardner, “I Was Raped” project, 2008

A t-shirt like this may not be the right thing for everyone, or the right thing just anywhere: you might want it only for rallies or support meetings, to use for a Clothesline Project, or you might be at a point where you want it to take out in your neighborhood and do some guerrilla activism. We all have different ways of both healing and speaking out, and different environments in which we may want to do that. What it illustrates is how difficult rape can be to speak about, and how often those of us who have survived sexual assaults and abuses feel (largely because we are told, by our rapists and by the people around us) it is something shameful we must keep locked up inside ourselves: the open safe is a gesture of unlocking that silence, having that conversation, refusing to keep something which is often so huge so deeply hidden and silenced. If you think it's the right thing for you or someone you know, you can get one here.

These shirts are no longer for direct sale via Scarleteen as of 1/20/2009. For those with orders outstanding, your shirts are on the way.

The shirts show an open safe with a small card inside which reads "I was raped." They are designed by Vinnie Angel of Vinnie’s Tampon Case. A limited number of these t-shirts are available for $25, which includes shipping. $5 from each shirt will benefit Scarleteen, which provides holistic and inclusive sexuality education for young adults, including counseling, support and information for rape survivors and rape prevention efforts, and has for ten years. The remainder of your funds will cover the cost of the shirts and benefit the I Was Raped project per the production and distribution of more t-shirts.

Sizes and colors: Shirts are available in women's Medium - 2XL. Medium through Extra Large are creme, and the 2XL are tan. Men's sizes are available in a soft grey for sizes Large - 2XL.

Note: While no one who has ordered a shirt has yet voiced this complaint, some of the backlash we are getting from this project has been centered around the fact that some people feel that Scarleteen is not an appropriate recipient for the $5 made from each shirt. I disagree, but if you feel that way, and also want to order one, I have no trouble giving your $5 to RAINN instead. Just let me know if you have that preference with your order and I will direct the $5 there.

Please note what size and color you'd prefer in the comments field of your order where we ask for a size. If you order a shirt and do not note a size, you will be sent a women's style large.

Fit: THESE SHIRTS RUN SMALL. (We stopped carrying smalls because no one believed us when we said how small they really were, and everyone who got a small anyway wasn't happy to discover we weren't kidding.) If you like your shirt to fit you exactly, order one size up. If you prefer a very loose shirt, you'll want to order two sizes up. Women's shirts seem to run smaller than the men's shirts do.

For men smaller than a men's large, or who prefer a slightly more scoop-necked shirt, you may want to order a women's style. For women who prefer a more unisex style, you may want to order the men's shirt. For those wanting extra fabric to make some kind of art out of it, you'll likely want the largest size men's shirt.

Shipping: Shirts are shipped anywhere from one to three weeks from the date of your order, based on our available inventory at a given time. Please be sure that your address listed with your PayPal order is correct on your order form. We will not ship additional shorts for no cost to those who listed the incorrect address.

And if this particular t-shirt doesn't speak to you, but you'd like something like it, you may want to look at the t-shirts and some of the other materials which Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) have to offer, and which is also an excellent prevention and awareness organization to support.

small i was"...I've been public about surviving rape already in a broader way than many survivors will be, simply because what I do gives me that opportunity, and also because it has been many years since my rapes. I was not somehow immediately and miraculously able to break my silence: even telling one person took me years, and it took years after that for me to start to tell more. But the way I have gone public has also had some benefits: when I am public online in a context I choose, people often have a history of me to draw from: it's tougher for people to make rash or quick assumptions about me, or about rape survivors based on me because that's rarely the only thing anyone will know about me. When I am public online or in print, I don't have eye contact with anyone reading my words, nor do I often have to deal with or even hear their responses.

If I wear this t-shirt on a public bus, in my neighborhood, when I go out to give a public talk to people who know nothing about me, or even in promoting this via a photo, I won't have those luxuries. I suspect I'll be faced with something I'm not often faced with much anymore: with people resenting that it's something I'm making them look at or know about, with shock, with guilt or embarrassment projected unto me, with pity, with mockery, with scorn. These are risks I have to acknowledge, since I'm acutely aware of how rape and survivors are often viewed in the world we live in.

Heather CorinnaBut I also hope it might accomplish what both my being public about surviving, and with all of what we've done with rape awareness and healing here at Scarleteen, both in providing information and in providing and nurturing frank and shame-free discussion. The times that I choose to wear this, I hope my risks are worth greater benefits.

I suspect that there might be a day I wear that t-shirt on the bus where a person next to me, who I have never met before, says "I was, too," to themselves. Where someone close enough to read the text thinks for a moment that breaking his silence is possible and could be okay. Where someone sitting across from me at the table might later start asking the women in their lives if they were ever raped, and might open up avenues for those women to have someone safe to disclose to. Where someone who might have thought that people like me should be ashamed or silent is challenged with my idea that we should be no such thing. Where, if nothing else, someone might see me and know that I'm one person who would never blame or shame them for being victimized, and someone who would have a vast admiration for their survival. Where another survivor having a hard time healing might see that shirt at the same time I'm smiling, talking to a friend, and be reminded that being raped does not make rape our whole lives, nor does being victimized once mean we are forever victims: where that person can get the clear sense that healing from rape, surviving and thriving are absolutely possible.

On top of how it might benefit others, even decades after my first assaults, it remains empowering for me, personally, to be able to find ways to give voice to what happened to me, to stay vocal, to stay visible. Even if I am met with reactions or responses which I find to be insensitive, uninformed or unfair, I can be provided with another opportunity to address those, and to be able to address them with that person being allowed no denial in that they are speaking with a survivor, and an expert authority on her own experience and survival. It is always powerful to acknowledge that while I did not choose nor want what was done to me, my refusal to have my life and my self usurped by others, my choice to take something awful and find strength and compassion for myself through it is part of who I am and who I have chosen to become. I wish that for every survivor." On why I'm wearing it -- Heather Corinna

For more information on the I Was Raped project, see 10 Questions with Jennifer Baumgardner, or read up on the project, rape and abuse at Scarleteen at the following links:

If you're a rape/sexual abuse survivor who is looking for support, the following are links to some support areas of our message boards for survivors:

* A reminder: the content of this page -- including the images on it -- is copyrighted, not public domain, and may not be used outside of fair use without express permission to do so. Gawker, Jezebel.com and DearSugar.com have all been contacted about use without permission. Anyone who wishes to use the copyrighted images does need permission. Since that alone does not seem to be sufficient, allow me to also appeal to your basic senses of compassion and humanity. The photo above is an image of me, a real person, making a very difficult admission, even though it is one I have made before, and it should ultimately be up to me in what context and environment I do that in. We'd certainly not force any survivor to purchase or wear this shirt, nor to wear it in any place they didn't want to, and I'd expect the same courtesy of others. - HC

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