Message on shirt: 'I was raped'

Message on shirt: 'I was raped'

SEATTLE -- You just might run into someone wearing a T-shirt that says "I was raped."

The phrase is printed across a new shirt sold online from a Seattle-based organization founded by a local rape survivor.

Heather Corrina's Web site Scarleteen.com offers teens "sex ed for the real world." The site offers detailed information on a wide array of topics having to do with sexuality in an attempt to educate teens and young adults and to encourage open, ongoing conversation.

The t-shirt campaign is a part of the "I was raped" project which also includes a documentary. The project, for which Corrina teamed up with feminist writer Jennifer Baumgardner, aims to highlight the prevalence of rape and to help victims break their silence.

Corrina says when she was raped years ago, she didn't even understand exactly what had happened.

"And to even have had that language to know what to call it or to know it had happened to somebody else would have made a tremendous difference for me in terms of not feeling like it was something I should be ashamed of," she said.

She hopes the site and the T-shirt will let other rape victims know they are not alone.

"I suspect that there might be a day I wear that T-shirt on the bus where a woman next to me, who I have never met before, says 'I was, too,'" she wrote in a statement on her Web site.

But Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault, isn't so sure that's all that will happen.

"You have to think about the consequences and it's not likely to happen that you've got everyone who's been raped wearing a t-shirt saying 'I've been raped,'" she said.

Berliner hesitated to say victims should wear their pain on their sleeve. The T-shirt, she said, fills her head with questions.

"What is this person looking for? Are they trying to get a reaction? Are they trying to see what I think?" she said.

When asked why she chose such a strong message, Corrina said it's more for the benefit of the person wearing the shirt rather than for those who see it.

"Because we think there are a lot of women who need it," she said. "It's certainly not for everybody. Everybody's feelings processes a little bit different."

Corrina admits that such a heavy message carries the possibility of backfiring.

"Oh, I think absolutely. You could wear this and be met with scorn and embarrassment."

That's what Berliner fears. Experts say rape victims may think they're ready to make a bold statement until they don't get the reaction they were hoping for.

Even if a rape victim wears the shirt for her own personal benefit, she will inevitably have to face the reactions to its strong message. Experts say the wrong reaction can scar the victim in devastating ways for years and years.

"So while I agree with the idea behind it, I would worry about whether someone was ready to take what came with it," she said. "It's definitely going to open up conversation."