Fighting violence against women with ‘The Clothesline Project’

Maddie Liotta, Staff Writer

The Clothesline Project has existed since the summer of 1990, when a group of women from Cape Cod, Mass. decided to turn the shocking statistics about violence against women into a tangible, visual form of recognition. The project is relatively simple: women who have been affected by violence or anyone who knows a woman who has been affected can decorate a shirt and describe their story via written word or visual art. The shirts are then hung on a clothesline display with the goal of spreading awareness, honoring survivors, and taking a stand against sexual assault and dating violence.

Each shirt color has a different meaning: white represents women who have died as a result of violence, yellow and beige represent battered women, red, pink and orange represent survivors of rape and sexual assault, blue and green are for victims of incest and sexual abuse, purple represents women who have been attacked for their sexual orientation, and black represents women who have been attacked for political reasons.

The University is one of about 500 projects in as many as 41 states and 5 countries. The Clothesline Project has been happening annually at the University since 2012 and has elicited positive feelings among students about its effect in spreading awareness of sexual violence and dating violence on campus.

Abigail Garrett ’17 participated in the project for the first time this year and noted how the shirt display “offers more of a social reinforcement than an administrative” one.

“Seeing them in the library for the past three years has been powerful. I’m not a victim of sexual assault but I have friends that are, and making a shirt in honor of a friend is freeing I think,” Garret said.

“It adds positive energy to a cause that needs it,” Alex Christensen ’18 said.

Members of the SpeakUP organization are closely involved with the project and stress how it promotes awareness of the issue of sexual violence.

“Having the shirts in the library can show how widespread [sexual assault] can be … Projects like this help change that,” SpeakUP peer Brielle Grote ’18 said.

“I think for a lot of people, hearing real stories really humanizes [sexual violence statistics] … It reminds everyone how much change is needed because of how much it can impact people,” head of SpeakUP and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator Rachel Stewart said.

The shirts from the Clothesline Project will be on display in Bertrand Library until Oct. 30.

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